Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cheese talking friends

Understanding slang is the most difficult aspect of learning a language. Even for an adult this can be confusing and strange, just thinking about regional differences can make my head spin. At a young age children are exposed to 1000s of words and somehow they learn the varied meanings and are able to adjust understanding with context. The process seems rather easy. Listen to the language and eventually learn when to use the particular word in conversation. However when it involves rowdy little boys that a certain little girl is extremely fond of there can be some massive confusions.

Over a family meal our conversation bounced around topics from riding bicycles this summer to classroom antics. The latter is where this provided our introduction to Olivia's classroom exposure to slang. She has two friends in her class she adores, both boys, because they share the same interests: Star Wars and Spiderman. One of the boys happens to be the life of the classroom. And when I say life you can interpret that as clown. He is a nice boy, very busy, a standard active happy boy. Olivia has been so impressed with his knowledge of Star Wars and most recently Indiana Jones that they have become quite the pals. Also she is amazed at how much food this kid eats by telling me everyday "He went for thirds today! He is so hungry!" that I wonder if it's only my child that monitors the food intake of her classmates. By the way I can fully understand why that boy needs to eat so much, he never is still, always wiggling around even while seated. Something that busy needs to replace the energy lost.

As Olivia began to tell us about her buddies we began to see a glimpse of what her teacher must endure every day. Olivia mentioned that her pals "...are always talking about cheese. They love to talk about cheese." I blankly respond "What do they say about cheese? Any particular kind?" Meanwhile my husband gives the the look of disbelief, such a look as to make me wonder what I did wrong. Olivia continues to confirm that she can't determine what is actually being said about cheese but she has assumed it to be a conversation about snack foods. Because, duh, that's what she associates cheese with, food. She then mentions that her teacher has banned all conversations about cheese in the classroom: "My teacher told the boys they can't talk about cheese in class but they can talk about it outside. And I don't know why we can't talk about cheese anymore."

At this point Keith can't take it anymore. He looks at Olivia and breaks the news to her "Olivia. Those boys are not taking about cheese you eat."

With a confused expression she replies "What? What kind are they talking about?" (What other kind is there?)

Daddy pauses a moment and says "They are talking about passing gas."

Olivia's disbelief sets in she in her standard way responds with a "No they're not. It's about cheese you eat."

A stern and serious Daddy leans over the table toward her and looks her in the eyes "Olivia, who's the only boy here, in this family?"

"You."

Leaning back into his chair drink in hand he explains the nature of boyhood conversations. "Yep, that's right and I'm telling you, as a grown up that was a boy, your buddies are not talking about food. You see, when some one says 'cut the cheese' they mean farting. The boys are talking about making farts. It's not nice to be talking about that in school and that is why your teacher won't let the boys talk about cheese inside."

Despite his best efforts in explanation Olivia still believes her pals were discussing snack foods. Perhaps next time she hears them talking of cheese she might remember this conversation with her father and finally put it all together on her own. She has my headstrong traits which means this is a lesson she will have to discover on her terms.

1 comment :

Judith said...

"...And I don't know why we can't talk about cheese anymore" so funny! I can totally picture her saying that.