“Labouche”, says Tadpole, pointing at her mouth.
“Yes sweetie, it’s your mouth”, I say, in my best educational voice, showing that she is correct but that mummy has a different word for this.
“Mouth”, she repeats.
“Well done darling!” I say, thinking how similar child-rearing techniques are to those used by Barbara Woodhouse on dogs. All that is missing is a little dog treat to hand out as a reward when I say “well done!”, and possibly a firm, congratulatory pat to her rump.
It occurs to me that if I were able to train Tadpole to obey dog-training commands like “sit” and “stay” then I might be able to prolong my life expectancy by several years. At the moment, I get to see her life flash before my eyes several times a day. Every time she manages to work loose her hand and dart towards a car/bicycle/the gap between the metro and the platform my heart does a little somersault. Which can’t be healthy.
I don’t discourage her from bringing me my slippers when I get home either.
Dog tangent aside, what I have noticed about the way Tadpole acquires French language is that for her “labouche” is one entity. As are “lesoreilles” and “lenez” or “lafourchette”. Aha! So that’s how French people instinctively know what gender something is. They learn the gender and the noun as one indivisible unit of language from the beginning. And separate it all out later on. None of that puzzling over whether a table leg ought to be feminine or masculine, or trying to get their head around the illogical concept of a breast being masculine (le sein). I imagine it won’t be long before Tadpole starts correcting my gender bending tendencies. In fact, soon I will have my very own walking, talking dictionary.
Similarly, in English at the moment there are a few words that she never uses in isolation. “Hat” is either part of the phrase “haton” or “hatoff”. “Light” is “lighton”. Her lasting fascination for lights is actually getting quite tedious: almost every single shop in France has a neon sign outside the front of it, and Tadpole feels the need to point at each and every one of them to show me that the light is indeed on.
It occurs to me that I should probably curb my language a little going forward to ensure that she doesn’t pick up any of the following phrases and decide that they are indivisible language blocks: