I’ve a suspicion the Hen was actually meant to belong to a Chinese family. I’m convinced he speaks in ‘tones’ and English is not a language he is likely to master any time soon.
It started with Ba. His self-appointed name for the variety of nasty white pillowcases he totes around. For comfort and security… and its soporific qualities. Ba eventually morphed into something different – a cross between ‘ba’ and ‘bo’. For boat. It is also his chosen assignation for bird, and he alters it slightly to refer to a bug. One handy syllable to refer to a pillowcase, a boat, a bird, a bug…with minute differences in pronunciation to set them apart.
It reminds me of a conversation I had with a Taiwanese friend in grad school. She tried to explain the concept of the language’s tones to me, by reciting ‘Ma, Ma, Ma, Ma.’ (Are there four tones, I hope so.) So I, bearer of perfect pitch and a keen ear repeated back exactly what I’d heard: four repetitions of the syllable ‘Ma’. She just shook her head, embarassed at my ineptitude. What can I say, to my ears it all sounded the same.
Well, the Hen says ‘Ma’ too. It means more. And he changes it up slightly to mean my or mine too.
And then there is Da. The word he uses to refer to his pacifier. (He’s a man with accoutrements – on the high maintenance side of the toddler spectrum.) But he also uses a semblance of Da (and Pa) for dog. My current rule of thumb: if we’re in the car or outside and he says ‘da’ there’s a dog in the vicinity. If we’re in the house, he’s looking for his pacifier. It works 80 percent of the time.
Da has paved the way to Fa. Which is….fish…of all things. Specifically inanimate fish drawn on paper. But he also uses a version of fa (fuh?) to mean foot.
I think he was switched at birth, and the blond hair is just a really good wig. And the eyes are really contact lenses. A suspicion that was confirmed when we were sitting in the van a few days ago, and he pointed to an Asian man walking past. A man with black hair; whose height I’d estimate to be about 5’4.
‘That’s my daddy’ he informed me.