Friday, April 13, 2007

Reading Things

For a while now, Celeste has been good at recognizing letters. She's perfect with uppercase letters and decent, but not perfect, with lowercase; she also seems to get the concept of letters representing words which represent ideas and things.

When asked, she can spell dog and bus and a few other words — both vocally and using her blocks or foam letters. (For some reason, the almost always spells train T-R-N-A-I. This is interesting to me and makes me wonder about language acquisition and languages that don't write out vowels. I also wonder if the /eɪ/ diphthong is the issue. Or if it's just that Celeste is a two-year-old.) She can also read off letters from book covers, food labels, etc.

Yesterday, I took Celeste and Quinn to the thrift store to pick up some books; 40¢ for paperbacks that are likely to be chewed is a very good thing. Among the titles I grabbed was Dan Yaccarino's So Big!. I didn't say anything about the book to either of the girls; it just caught my eye and I added it to the pile. I did notice Celeste flipping through it in the cart however.

Later that afternoon, Celeste was having me read some of the books when she pointed at So Big! and said, "Daddy, read So Big!" Again, I had never told her the title of the book. I asked her if she knew the title because of the words on the book and she nodded and asked me to read it. I asked her to read me the letters on the cover and she did so perfectly, only stumbling over the exclamation point. "S-O-B-I-G ... I don't remember."

Totally Unrelated

During a final proof for one of our magazines today, there was a two-deck headline on a column that read: "Where's the Fugawi / We're Here Now". Everyone was a little flummoxed by "fugawi," although there were the requisite namechecks of Fugazi. The term didn't appear in the column, and none of us at the table recognized. I asked the features editor if she'd googled it, and she said she hadn't. As I walked back to my desk to see if anything popped up, I thought of fugedaboudit and started playing with that /fʌːg/ sound in my mind and realized that fugawi corresponded all to well to "fuck are we."

It turns out, it's also the name of a brand of GPS software, which worked well with the headline, explaining the presence of the verb 's. At the same time, the Urban Dictionary's definition for the word matches up with the other meaning pretty well. The headline ended up being rewritten.

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