C-a-n Y-o-u S-p-e-l-l?

No one ever told me that spelling would actually be a much more useful tool in my life than higher math as I failed spelling quiz after spelling quiz and lost spelling bee after spelling bee. But now that C and A understand every word we say, I find that at least some portion of my conversations with adults involve spelling.

Dinner decisions, for example: “Do we want to go out for p-i-z-z-a?” “Oh no. How about the d-i-n-e-r?

Or holiday gift discussions: “Did your parents get him the j-e-t e-n-g-i-n-e or the b-r-i-d-g-e?”

Or looking for the light at the end of the tunnel: “Is it time for b-a-t-h?”

I even find myself spelling out loud when childless. This weekend at the grocery store, I was apparently muttering “Shall I get the pre-made p-i-z-z-a or the d-o-u-g-h? And where is the c-a-n-d-y?” as I wandered the aisles. When a friend stopped me near the c-o-o-k-i-e-s, she just about fell over laughing.

Recently we’ve run into a little problem, however, as C is starting to spell certain words, such as p-i-z-z-a and b-a-t-h. In order to keep my children from discovering that p-i-z-z-a is even a dinner possibility, we either need to increase our spelling speed or change the spelling to an understandable by adults but temporarily confusing to children alternative. Neither scenario is particularly appealing to the spelling challenged. I have hard enough time getting the spelling right a half speed, at double time I am sure to fail miserably. And while changing the spelling might seem like it would be a no brainer for me as I generally spell wrong anyway, it’s not a skill I’m particularly good at on demand.

I was never skilled at gibberish or pig Latin either, it took too much thinking on my feet and I tend to get flustered under pressure. I could speak in French, but M is a Spanish guy, and I’m not about to take up a new language just to keep my children from hearing the word c-a-n-d-y. And plus, they’re smart enough that it would be no time at all before they figured out that caramelo is really c-a-n-d-y.

I haven’t yet figured out a solution to this issue beyond wildly making gestures that bear no resemblance to p-i-z-z-a or b-a-t-h (did I mention I am also lousy at charades?) and M spends a fair amount of time looking at me quizzically and saying “Huh? Repeat please…” Perhaps if we both learned ASL? Or perhaps I should just stop speaking of things I don’t want my children to hear…



  1. julie persons says:

    hee, hee, I do this too, and often catch myself spelling things out when there are no kids around…

  2. Luckily we’ve got a ways to go before Mr. P begins to spell.

    Perhaps you could just overdo the explanation of the word?

    Like pizza could be- the circular baked dough with spread out tomato sauce and melted white cow by-product?

    Bath could be gushing water from a municipal source whose temperature increases to warm with cleaning agents added?

    A bit tiring perhaps, but think of how his vocabulary will increase!

  3. Phantom Scribbler says:

    Laughing. This is one way in which I feel deprived by my monolingual upbringing. When my mother was a child, her parents had no end of options. If they didn’t want the kids to understand, they used Yiddish. If they really didn’t want the kids to understand, they used Russian. If they really, really didn’t want to understand, they used Hungarian.

    Maybe you could write it out — in cursive?

  4. chichimama says:

    Welcome Julie!

    Gina, C would know exactally what I was talking about if I said any of those things. I seem to have spent WAY too much time explaining to him how things work.

    Phantom, cursive might work. Not so helpful in the “on myy way home, what’s for dinner” conversations though.

  5. One problem with the over-explaining the word is that C, for example, spends much of his bath looking at the faucet saying, “See, the water comes up through the pipes in the wall, though the faucet, and then out! Right Daddy?”

    Too much time watching This Old House with him.

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