petite anglaise

February 21, 2005

who's your daddy?

Filed under: Uncategorized — petiteanglaiseparis @ 9:30 am

Tadpole suddenly started speaking in phrases this week. French ones mind, which are not nearly half as gratifying to me as English ones. I am not yet ready to admit even to myself that French will be her dominant language, while my mother tongue is likely to be relegated to second language status.

Overnight, everything she pointed at was suddenly accompanied by a “c’est … ça.”

“C’est mummy ça”, “C’est daddy ça”, “C’est teddy ça”, “C’est quoi ça?”.

Or with a triumphant “there it is”: “Il est daddy” “Elle est mummy.”

Accompanied without exception by exaggerated finger-pointing and arm-waving. As far as gesticulation levels go, Tadpole most definitely qualifies as a French person.

Pushing Tadpole plus wobbly trolley around the supermarket (no security harness, this is France) on Saturday evening, stocking up on edible provisions for the week, (which now include various additive-laden but child-friendly snacks that I hitherto swore I would never feed my child, including fish fingers, which I am currently rediscovering), Tadpole gets it into her pretty little head that a complete stranger, who looks absolutely nothing like her father, and is at least a decade older than he is, is her daddy. The only plausible explanation I can find for this is that she was confusing the word “daddy” with the word “man”.

“C’est daddy ça!”, shouts Tadpole, loudly, with extended arm and pointy index finger.

“Er… no sweetie, that’s not your daddy. It might be someone else’s daddy though.”

We turn into the next aisle, and I begin my search for a breakfast cereal not containing ten times the recommended daily intake of sugar. A toss up between porridge oats and cornflakes, again: Rice Krispies are like gold dust in this city.

“C’est daddy ça” cries Tadpole earnestly, volume turned up a little higher. I start and look up hopefully from the packet of ‘Honey Smacks’ I am examining, wondering if daddy has actually deserted his powerpoint presentation and elected to join us in the supermarket. No such luck. Just the same man, who is not, never was, and never will be Tadpole’s father.

“Don’t be silly, it’s not your daddy,” I repeat firmly, wishing that it was, because I’m unsure how I am going to get both shopping and Tadpole home on my own, even if it is only 200m from the local Franprix to our own door.

I swing a hasty left, and pounce upon a packet of Jacobs crackers. Not because I actually like them, you understand, but because they are a brand from home, and Franprix don’t usually stock them, so I feel I have to seize the opportunity. I have an unopened bottle of HP sauce in my cupboard, also purchased at Franprix. They can keep each other company.

We take up our position in the queue.

“C’est DADDY ça, il est LÀ daddy.”

I lose my patience.

“Good grief [Tadpole], give me credit for some taste! That man is not your father!” I snap.

Tadpole is stunned into silence by my tone.

And I spend five minutes in the queue praying that the man in question isn’t an English teacher by profession.


  1. Wahey, fish fingers! I think one of the best parts of having a baby is to be able to buy those… and then eat them yourself. Not quite at that stage myself yet- but I am developing a taste for ricecakes.

    As for the ‘daddy’ thing… I was reading a book on child language acquisition (‘Listen to your Child’ by David Crystal- you may have come across the author in your linguistic studies; it is very readable and worth looking out for). Crystal gives examples of children at Tadpole’s kind of stage using ‘daddy’ to mean ‘man’, ‘car’ to mean any kind of vehicle, and so forth. I think there is even a sceintific term for the phenomenon- ‘overstretching of vocabulary’, or something like that. So I don’t think Tadpole is really casting aspersions on your good taste!

    Comment by jonathan — February 21, 2005 @ 10:45 am

  2. Does Tadpole have a name which “works” in both English and French without sounding “wanky” in one or the other?

    I always used to ponder on what my Franco/English children would be called…

    Comment by witho — February 21, 2005 @ 10:58 am

  3. I do a lot of praying no one speaks english in the grocery store, as well, as it is the language David and I use to criticize people who put 18 items in the 10-items-or-less lane, or to mutter at those who approach you too closely while entering your PIN code at the checkout, etc.

    David’s nephew has finally become aware that I speak “weirdly” this weekend, to which I responded that “yes, some people do. like you” (he is going to a speech therapist currently because he has a hard time with certain letters). He said “it’s because you had a pacifier when you were a baby!” (which I think is the reason that people have explained to him for his problems or something).

    Plus, this week, the nephew was staying at his grandmother’s house, along with two “cousins” (actually the grandmother’s brother’s daughters, who are 12 and 10), and their mom is chilian and called her daughters, speaking in spanish (on the speaker phone, apparently). To which point Tom apparently announced “your mom speaks weirdly!”

    Funny how at different ages the idea of different languages is completely incomprehensible.

    Comment by kim — February 21, 2005 @ 11:01 am

  4. Jonathan – those apple flavoured baby rice cakes are a personal favourite of mine (only sold in the UK of course). I do remember a D Crystal book being on a linguistics reading list long long ago.. Will look into that.

    Witho – she has a name which is easy to pronounce and not nerdy in either English, French or Italian (Mr Frog has an Italian surname and grandparents). Which did limit us a bit, but I’m happy with our choice.

    Kim – it’s dangerous when you get into the habit of criticising people loudly in English and thinking they won’t understand, isn’t it? I do the opposite when I’m with Mr Frog in England, we poke fun at the midriff baring “Pram faces” in York. If any of them ever turn out to be bilingual (unlikely but who knows?) I’ll probably get punched one of these days.

    Comment by petite — February 21, 2005 @ 12:40 pm

  5. :lol::lol::lol:

    Comment by Claypot — February 21, 2005 @ 1:01 pm

  6. You are not spending enough time with other men giving her experience in differentiating between men.

    Comment by Oliver — February 21, 2005 @ 1:38 pm

  7. Petite, I am a “Mr Frog” living in UK with a “Miss Cuppatea” or “Miss Rosbeef” (soon to become Mrs Frog), and I stumbled across your blog from the BBC web site (which took me to the 2005 weblog awards and eventually to your blog). I have to say it’s really well-written and I can relate to a lot of linguistic/cultural/everyday life problems that you described, except that it’s all in reverse for me. We’re thinking of having a “tadpole”, and all your posts have provided me with “insider” information, which I’m sure will be very useful in the future. Many congratulations on your web site (it’s part of my daily routine when I switch on the PC first thing in the morning), I hope you’ll get the award (I didn’t vote, but if I had, it would have been for you..).


    Comment by Froggie — February 21, 2005 @ 2:10 pm

  8. //I do the opposite when I’m with Mr Frog in England, we poke fun at the midriff baring “Pram faces” in York. If any of them ever turn out to be bilingual (unlikely but who knows?) I’ll probably get punched one of these days.//

    It is indeed a dangerous game (less so in York than in Paris, I’ll grant you) but it’s sooooo tempting – it’s like being a member of a secret society, but instead of secret handshakes, you have a (more-or-less) secret language.

    Comment by Iain — February 21, 2005 @ 2:20 pm

  9. Well Oliver, if in the interests of Tadpole’s development it is important for me to spend time in the company of other men…

    I’ll need volunteers.

    I am so curious about the wooden percussion frogs advertised in the google contextuals below. If I click on my own ad repeatedly, will I make myself money?

    Comment by petite — February 21, 2005 @ 2:40 pm

  10. happy to volunteer in the interests of science, but i’m afraid it sounds a little like a thinly disguised ruse to meet random gentlemen…

    really, it’s like borrowing someone else’s child to look new man-nish & pick up women in the park… speaking of which – would tadpole by available for hire next weekend?

    Comment by tom hagen — February 21, 2005 @ 2:49 pm

  11. I’ll send her over on the eurostar in her cutest outfit. Mr Frog does say that when he takes Tadpole for a walk in the park on a Sunday without me, all the women go dewy-eyed at the sight of what they think is a doting single daddy.

    He gets to pull, I get to do housework. Pfft.

    Comment by petite — February 21, 2005 @ 3:35 pm

  12. hmm – sorry on behalf of men everywhere that the theory doesn’t work in reverse – ie. doting mother attracts dewy eyed men. unless we think you might be an au pair of course… which would be a different matter entirely.

    i apologise also for dragging this topic away from your clearly delineated point.

    Comment by tom hagen — February 21, 2005 @ 4:25 pm

  13. Re. the Google ads, I thought the same thing about clicking on your own ads to get money. I’ve been clicking for four months now and nothing’s happened:lol:

    As you noted before, it’s funny how they are generated. After one of my posts I got an ad for eBay selling refugees!

    I have to say though that those wooden percussion frogs look like fun.

    Comment by Ria — February 21, 2005 @ 5:06 pm

  14. Ria, my gmail contextual ads have sites selling poison dart frogs in!

    Comment by petite — February 21, 2005 @ 5:23 pm

  15. Both my little ones went through a phase of calling all men “Daddy” (and sometimes calling other women “mummy” which was much more upsetting!) I think it’s pretty normal. I remember my nephew calling anyone with grey hair “grandmagrandpa”.

    The language learning thing is really pretty interesting. I had a prof one time who was French, his wife was Taiwanese – their kid spoke French, English, Mandarin – and teddy bear. He figured if mum spoke one language, dad a different one, and everyone else another, then why not a language for teddy bears? My daughter (age 5, American English speaker, but I’m trying to teach her some real English too) often speaks in a made-up language to herself. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t make a more serious effort to teach her some French. We did do a little bit of sign language (trendy thing here in the northeastern US) and she still uses it from time to time, as does her younger brother. My favorite phrase from when she started stringing words together: “Milk. Get it. NOW!”

    Comment by Susan — February 21, 2005 @ 8:58 pm

  16. Too funny! But I think you’re right that Tadpole means “man” when she says “Daddy.” Take heart in the fact that at least she can tell the genders apart.

    Comment by Bluegrass Mama — February 21, 2005 @ 9:12 pm

  17. And now my contextual ad says “Say Thanks to Tony Blair” at

    Pleeeaase don’t click on it. It’ll only encourage him.


    Comment by Ria — February 21, 2005 @ 11:20 pm

  18. Apropos nothing, I used to call my babysitter “mum” and mother by her first name until I was four or so. Apparently it distressed everyone else apart from my mother, who seemed pretty happy to be relieved of the maternal burden!

    Also, I’m with witho on the concern about having a cross-culutrally acceptable name. It’s all I can do not to giggle when I hear a guy’s called Michel. But that’s just my infantile sense of humour…

    Comment by BHR — February 22, 2005 @ 1:42 am

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