Lip-smacking, ‘Lickswishy’ Words for Children …
… Or, From Bandersnatch to Boson, words that kids can bite into!
No-holds-barred when it comes to offering up rich and delumptious vocabulary to children! How frabjous is that?
Kids seem to assimilate an incredibly vast array of words, from the usual to the ‘extra-usual’, the outlandishly nonsensical to the surprisingly advanced. I have seen the power of kids’ language acquisition up close. I have stood, shaking my head in amazement, as my two small French-Americans nimbly and rapidly sculpted out rich lexicons in two languages … simultaneously! They were exposed, at a very young age, to the eloquent prose and colorful vocabulary of La Fontaine and Saint-Exupéry. And, at the very same time, they were trapping ‘heffalumps’ with Piglet and Pooh! In one breath, they were singing “au clair de la lune, on n’y voit qu’un peu”, without necessarily getting the double-entendre. And in the next, with the agility of gymnasts, they were belting out the long-winded attributes of a Grinch, without necessarily getting all the ‘overflowing’, and ‘appalling’, ‘dump heap’ of adjectives!
‘Word-throwing’: Children are game for anything!
Kids contextualize. They get the gist of things, even more than the big people who choose books for them, or some of the very writers who write for them, would have it!
“Some writers for children deliberately avoid using words they think a child doesn’t know. This emasculates the prose and, I suspect, bores the reader. Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words, and they backhand them over the net. They love words that give them a hard time, provided they are in a context that absorbs their attention” [E.B.White]
Like A.A. Milne’s Owl, kids are ‘very good at long words’!
Sophisticated conceptual thinking is dependent upon language. So, the richer the exposure to intriguing words, the better! And Susan Canizares, PhD, Language and Literacy Development, reminds us that young children love the sound of long, seemingly difficult words rolling off their tongues. She highlights a child’s delight in suddenly blurting out that stuff is ‘ridiculous’, or ‘saturated’, or even ‘discombobulated’!
Roald Dahl was good at coloring children’s worlds with advanced words like pandemonium and malevolent. And currently, author Josh Funk is enriching picture book texts with the likes of enthralled, plummeting, rappelled, and slathered. Meanwhile, I am gathering up all the bosons and baryons I can muster. How … ‘factabulous’!
- Lickswishy/delumptious – coined by Roald Dahl
- Bandersnatch/frabjous – coined by Lewis Carroll
- Boson – coined by the theoretical physicist Paul Dirac
More on the magic of coined words:
- “From Muggle to Whizzpopper: Invented words in Children’s Literature”
And on giving children the vivacious vocabulary ‘they deserve’: