A Formal Response
Now that Mr. Nut’s beginning to respond to words — for instance, he’ll turn and look if I say, “There’s Kitty” — I am reminded of that old Steve Martin routine where he talks about teaching your children the wrong words for things. So that on the first day of school, when he raises his hand to ask if he can go to the bathroom, the kid says, “Can I mambo dogfish to the banana patch?”
I don’t really have that dark impulse, but occasionally I do give him a little French lesson. Ne laissez jamais un enfant seul, I said to him this morning (never leave a baby alone). Aimez vous les pommes de terre? (Do you like potatoes?) didn’t get much of a response, perhaps because I used the more formal vous instead of the familiar tu — and he felt distanced by that.