I’ve been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Atticus’s first word. We’re fairly conservative about claiming words for our babies – they have to be independently used multiple times with clear reference to the thing they mean – but we watch closely for them to happen.

This event had added significance with Atticus, because, in his role as the third child, he’d be the tie-breaker. Miranda’s first word (by months) was dad, which she then followed with car, light, keys, dog, cat, flower, butterfly, stairs, butt paste, uh oh, and phone, and then, finally, mom. Thankfully, Madeleine CaiQun evened things out when mama was her first recognizable English word, spoken just days after we met her 🙂 Of course, it helps that mama means the same thing in Mandarin as it does in English, but still, a word is a word 🙂 Matt is less competitive than I am and unconcerned about these things, but perhaps due to my relegation to the status of 13th word for Miranda (after butt paste? really?), I have been working hard to try to get Atticus to say mom.


I just assumed that his first word would be either mom or dad. Madeleine CaiQun’s language acquisition took what I think is a pretty typical path with names of key people in her life getting top billing, followed by important objects. I suppose I should have known, though, after the assorted collection of words Miranda chose for her initial repertoire, that additional variation might manifest itself as Atticus began to talk.

And my child chose, as his first word…this.

All day long, he points at the people and objects around him and says, over and over again, “zish! zish!”

According to our pediatrician, that’s actually a fairly common first word. I’m not sure what the others are, after mom and dad, but I’m amused by this one.

It actually reminds me every day of my AP English teacher in high school, who told us that she was tired of seeing the word “this” used in our papers without a clear antecedent, and from then on, for added clarity, any time we used the word “this” we were to follow it up with a noun describing the object to which we were referring – for example, “this cat,” or “this way of life.” Many a paper I have edited since then has been the recipient of that wisdom from Kay Esposito – just one of many pearls I acquired from her that year!

And now my youngest child walks around all day, loudly proclaiming, “This! This!” (with no antecedent at all or even a subsequent qualifying phrase) to anyone who will listen, while I repeat to him, “Mama, mama.”

I just have to laugh 🙂

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