Language rules – wot so funee?

This week has seen an interesting step in Andrew’s language development, at least it is for the linguist within me who is fascinated by seeing this process that I learned about in textbooks being played out in front of my very eyes and ears. I’ve noticed that he’s had some interesting verb formations, which give me insight into the process of how he must be learning English. He’s been doing interesting things with verbs that have two words. For example….

He regularly falls off things in his daring toddler way, and mostly just picks himself back up and carries on regardless. As he picks himself back up again, he’s been saying “Andrew fall off-ed”. In a similar fashion, the light “come on-ed” the other day, and at the weekend he remarked that his ping pong balls “go downs” the chute into the paddling pool. These examples all illustrate nicely that he’s learning patterns and rules rather than just imitating what we say. He’s clearly picked up that the past tense of a word usually has an “-ed” on the end, but he’s treating the two words in the compound verbs as one, so he sticks “-ed” on the end of this one big word. It’s logical really, and it’s so interesting to see this logic in action. The same goes for the “go downs” – he knows that “-s” is generally needed for he/she/it [insert verb] , but he’s just applying it to the compound as a whole.

I’ve also heard him say “goed” instead of went, which is another rule that he’s applying before he learns that there is an exception here. He’s got the hang of rules for making plurals out of single nouns too. For breakfast he usually has “bix” (Weetabix minis), but just recently they have been harder to come by at a reasonable price (apparently due to the poor wheat harvest caused by the bad weather this year – ironic given that I’m sitting here writing in boiling sunshine!). So instead I’ve bought alternatives, one of which was the chocolate flavour standard size Weetabix. When he first had one of these, he quite rightly came out with “Look, it’s one big bick!” all on his own, without me prompting him. In fact I would probably more naturally say “one big bix”, because it’s the brand name [Weeta]bix and “bick” isn’t a word.

Apart from these insights into his logic, we’ve had a few classic lines this week that have made us chuckle. The first that springs to mind was on the way home from Granny and Grandad’s at the weekend. It was (well past his) nap time and he was still buzzing with the excitement of having been playing with them or friends outside in the garden for the entire weekend. So he was chattering away commenting on all the things that were in his mind. At one point I turned around and said “Andrew, darling, it’s time for a nap now OK, please could you go to sleep?”. His reply was: “Andrew already asleep” (cue a not very convincing sleep pretence position!) Probably just showing off that he can now use the word “already” with accurate meaning.

Oh and talking of “probably”, I can’t forget his reply to Granny’s question of what toys he would like to play with after he’d politely requested to play with some toys: “probably Duplo” – another word that he’s got into recently.

The best one has to be the one he came out with last night in the bath. He was already in the bath whilst Daddy was taking Joel’s nappy off right next to the bath before putting him in too. We hadn’t smelled anything before (probably because all we could smell was the cooking dinner which included grilled salmon), but as he opened the nappy Daddy let out a surprised “Oh, Joel, you’ve done a poo!” Andrew then piped up with: “Joel, no, you’re sposed to do poos in the potty!”  Daddy tried to explain that we didn’t expect baby Joel to do them like a big boy in the potty, but it was quite a tricky one to get the message across, and to be fair to Andrew, right from birth he’s always been good at doing poos either on the change mat or on the potty, not in his nappy at least. Joel doesn’t seem to have followed in his brother’s footsteps in this.

Wot So Funee?

The excitement of a level crossing – wot so funee?

Following on from last week’s funee post which featured the ‘nappy nippa‘, Andrew decided this week that it is actually a ‘nappy nipple’! Fortunately he hasn’t shouted that out anywhere other than home. Clearly there’s a lot of talk about cloth nappies and breastfeeding around here. So much so that he’s getting them mixed up. Oops!

Another random thing he’s come out with was his version of the name for one of those fruits that’s like a peach but with smooth skin. He hasn’t eaten many of these since he’s been talking, and this week we had some in the fruit and veg box. One day I offered him one and he ate some, and the next day, when asked which fruit he would like for pudding, he said ‘errr……Pectarine’! Incidentally, I’ve noticed recently that he’s starting to say ‘errr’ when he can’t think what to say straight away; it’s interesting that he’s learnt this filler to hold his place in the conversation rather than just staying silent until he works out what he wants to say.

Another thing in his speech that I’ve noticed this week is how he’s describing very big or very loud things that he sees and hears. Anything and everything that is remotely bigger than average in size is now either ‘massive’ (said with highly emphatic intonation and voice quality), or, less often, ‘really really big’. Sounds that are louder than average are ‘a big loud noise’  to him. And yes he’s STILL going on about the flipping fire alarm that made a big loud noise at the children’s centre about 2 months ago now – read about this exciting story here.

The highlight of Andrew’s speech this week has to be his love of those places in a road where trains or people can cross it. He has a real obsession with “level crossings” (said with great accuracy) at the moment. Whenever we go over one he gets very excited, and he even asked Daddy at the weekend if they could just go and see one for fun during their Saturday morning together. One slight issue is that he can get confused between a level crossing and a pedestrian crossing. I’ve tried to explain when he shouts “level crossing” at full pelt whenever we go past a pedestrian crossing, but to be fair “pedestrian” is harder to say than “level”. His attempts to copy my “pedestrian crossing” usually come out something like “vestry/destry crossing”.

Train mad
Train mad Andrew at a local fair a few weeks ago

So when we were on our way to a friend’s house in the car on Thursday morning, I was actually pleased when the lights started to flash and the barriers come down just as we approached a level crossing in a village just south of Cambridge. I knew that we could be there for quite a while as this was the London mainline, but at least Andrew wouldn’t be bored for a few minutes in the car. As we waited, I asked Andrew if he was excited that a train was on its way, to which he replied “Yes, might be Thomas”. I tried hard not to giggle, and said “it probably won’t be Thomas, but it might be a blue train”, knowing that First Capital Connect are blue and pink. He was quiet for a 10 seconds or so, and then came out with another hopeful statement: “might be Percy.” At that point we could hear the train in the distance, so he got excited and wasn’t too disappointed when it whooshed past and wasn’t Thomas or Percy – it was a train after all, and that’s all that matters in his world.

Wot So Funee?

Nappy nippa – wot so funee?

I had a break from writing a funee post last week, as I was busy writing posts for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding scavenger hunt. I’m sure Andrew has said lots of funny things since last time I wrote a funee post, but I haven’t written many of them down and my brain is full of lots of things so I can’t remember the others.

One thing that sticks in my mind is the thing that is used to hold terry nappies together these days instead of a safety pin – if you’re not in the nappy stage any more, or if you’re not into cloth nappies like I am, then you may be wondering what I mean, so here’s a picture (the blue thing).

nappy nippa

I’ve been sorting through various donations to the nappy library that I’ve just started up, and both boys are generally quite fascinated by what’s going to be in the bag of nappies that we’ve collected or been given today! In the bottom of one bag were a few of these modern safety pin replacements; Andrew got his hands on one and asked what it was, so I told him. He repeated the word back to me there and then: ‘nappy nippa!’ That was worth a chuckle from him and me, but then he decided he was going to repeat this word at random intervals throughout the coming days. Of course he repeated it lots when we went round to a friend’s house to show her some nappies that she was interested in borrowing, but he also comes out with it all over the place, where there is no apparent link to a cloth bottom covering. ‘Nappy nippa, nappy nippa….” Yes Andrew, we’ve got it, it’s a nappy nippa! It is a cool word though I think.

Another random speech act of Andrew this week was the “lick sick binned” that he came out with just before bed the other evening. As I was struggling to figure out what on earth he was on about, Daddy reliably informed me that he was on about an “elastic band”. Apparently they had just finished tidying up a new game that we’d been bought that had one of these holding it together, so Andrew asked what it was as Daddy removed it from his grasp (gently, to avoid pinging, though Andrew would find that fun). For some reason his vowels all got turned into ‘i’, and the first one (which is unstressed so not very prominent) got missed off, but other than that his consonants were in there, if a little scrambled.

Oh and to finish, I just thought I’d mention that he seems to randomly come out with stuff that he ‘want to do/have’, usually at the table when eating. For example, the other day he randomly announced that he “want to go hot air balloon”, and we couldn’t think why this was on his mind, like he hadn’t just been watching a DVD with a hot air balloon on. Another one was “want to cut pineapple”, even though we haven’t eaten (or cut?!) pineapple for a while and don’t very often. But who knows, we’re definitely not experts on how a toddler mind works! If we respond with something like “I’m not sure we can really do that now Andrew”, his response is usually “maybe nother day” – something he’s picked up on from our speech, very wisely.

Wot So Funee?


The Clarabel buggy – wot so funee?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Andrew’s confusion between Thomas (the Tank Engine) and hummus. This week he had a couple more train name substitutions for other items. The first was another edible item. As we were eating dinner one evening, he looked down at his bowl and said “Look, it’s a Gordon”. I looked and said “Really? I can’t see Gordon”. He insisted and pointed at a green vegetable that was lurking in his meal. The penny dropped – “Ah you mean a courgette, Andrew!”, to which he replied “Yes Mummy, a courgette!” I guess it was fairly easy to mix up – the vowel is the same in both words at least!

The second train-related mix up happened when Daddy was explaining that we were going to go out the 4 of us with our 2 single buggies. We have a single Bugaboo that I use most of the time for Andrew and I wear Joel in the wrap, and we also have an old (but still going strong) Maclaren stroller that we keep in the boot of the car for when we go out in the car rather than having the rigmarole of getting the bigger buggy out of the flat and into the car etc. When we go out as a family we sometimes take both single buggies. As Daddy explained that Andrew was going in the Maclaren buggy and Joel in the Bugaboo, Andrew took it in carefully, and then repeated where he was going to sit – “in the Clarabel buggy!” Where’s the Annie buggy though?! Again, they seem fairly easy to mix up – one syllable, the ‘-clar-‘ is the same in both.

Andrew in the Clarabel buggy back in October, just before Joel was born
Andrew in the Clarabel buggy back in October, just before Joel was born

Apart from train-related words, we’ve also had a couple of other food pieces of vocab. In our fruit and veg box this week, we had those small orange-coloured fuzzy-skinned round fruits – also known as “babycots” in toddlerish. That’s not a bad attempt to copy my word “apricots” – he started of with something like “abey-cots” then went to “baby-cots”, probably because they are two words he knows and would associate them with each other – his baby brother sleeps in a cot in the same room as him.

And finally, something he’s said for a little while, but I haven’t heard him say recently and I’d forgotten he did it. For some reason that I can’t quite figure out, those crunchy potato bits that you get in bags (and flavoured with all sorts of random flavours that are nothing like the thing they are supposed to imitate the flavour of) are “crisp crisps”. It’s like he feels he needs to qualify that there may be some other type of crisp distinct from these crisp crisps. I can’t remember ever giving him soggy crisps, in fact I very rarely give him crisps at all – they are only consumed by him on special occasions such as parties, or he might be lucky enough to get one if he catches me trying to sneak a snack when he’s not looking. I know that toddlers quite often repeat a word or part of a word when they start talking – Andrew did this quite a bit when he was younger, but recently he’s not done it apart from this. It’s also pretty difficult to say – try it and see what I mean!

Wot So Funee?

Sandyline, Daddylion – wot so funee?

A few weeks ago when we were at our local children’s centre at a group, the fire alarm went off. To be fair, it was very loud, and we hadn’t been warned so it wasn’t just a practice. Andrew was playing across the room from where Joel and I were sat, so I looked immediately over at him and he started to scream! So I rushed over to him, and as I did, a kind member of staff who was in the room offered to take Joel, who hadn’t batted an eyelid at the noise, and I picked up a howling Andrew with his hands over his ears. We filed out into the playground, of course without coats, so Andrew ended up wearing an adult denim jacket and Joel a blanket from a friend’s buggy that was outside. It turned out to be something like they’d burnt some toast in the kitchen, so it wasn’t too long before we filed back in again. Andrew calmed down after we’d got out of the building way from the noise. You may be wondering what’s so funny about that?

Well, ever since this incident, Andrew has managed to recount bits of this story at least once a day. He is now obsessed with spotting fire alarms in other buildings – “Look, Mummy, there’s a fire alarm! Fire alarm make a big loud noise. Andrew cried fire alarm. Andrew in playground outside.” He can spot them in places I didn’t even notice, like shops, cafes and other places we go to for groups. He’s of course noticed the one we have at home, and lets me know this at frequent intervals, just in case I did’t know we had one. This fire alarm observation skill started off quite cute to my mind, then turned into being rather funny; now I’d say we’ve reached the slightly annoying stage, when I find myself apologising to people we meet at groups who have to endure yet another rendition of his fire alarm story when he spots one for the umpteenth time!

The other obsession of Andrew’s at the moment is one that surfaces in the garden. A few weeks ago when Granny and Grandad came to visit, Grandad found a few of those flowers that you can blow on and the seeds fly away in the wind. Of course Andrew learnt the word for them, or so I thought, until earlier this week when we were in the garden where there were still quite a few left that he hadn’t picked with Grandad. As Andrew picked one himself, I asked him what it was, to which came the reply: “a sandyline”. Although I thought this was rather cute, I thought I’d better gently correct him, by saying “Yes well done, that nearly right, it’s a dandelion”, which he repeated back to me as “a Daddylion”. Again, he was winning me over in cuteness, but I replied similarly to the last time, and his third attempt was perfect.

Just like I think this picture is perfect! (Grandad took this one, it’s far too good to be one of my snaps)


Wot So Funee?

Babble babble

For a while now I’ve been wanting to write a post on Joel’s language acquisition. I have lots of things to say about Andrew’s at the moment, but in some ways Joel’s is even more fascinating right now. In the past couple of months he’s gone from making just baby sounds that I blogged about here, to producing sounds that are syllables with a consonant and vowel, and repeating these several times in a row – he’s reached the babbling stage. I find this so fascinating because it is the real beginnings of a recognisable language; of course he’s a long way off speaking English (or French or German – still trying to speak bits of these to the boys), but the sounds he’s currently making at least sound like a real language rather than just gurgling or crying.

Although he’s been babbling for a while, I haven’t got round to writing about it because I’ve been trying to catch it on camera but I’ve hit the Observer’s Paradox so many times! Point my phone at him and any babbling that was going on immediately ceases in favour of looking at the pretty colours (with cover) or shiny surface (without cover). With a fair amount of patience and loads of videos that turned out to be silent or just me in the background trying to encourage him to talk (which never works), here’s what I eventually managed to capture.

After lots of laughing at the start (as if he was saying ‘ha ha Mummy, I’m not going to talk for the camera!), we do get some talking eventually near the end of this video.

He’s absolutely desperate to crawl and now can go backwards, side to side and around in circles but not quite forwards; often his attempts are accompanied by frustrated vocalisations, as we see in this video.

He often does some lovely talking when he’s bright eyed and bushy tailed at 5.30am, when I’m less keen on encouraging talking until I realise that it’s actually quite cute, as was the time that I took this video.


The train & the dip (& other tresting tales) – wot so funee?

Last weekend we visited Duxford Air Museum (you can read all about it here) with Andrew’s grandparents, and he received a few lessons in aviation engineering from Pop. One fairly basic one was on those things that spin around on aeroplanes that were designed and built before jet engines came along; Andrew can now very accurately tell you how many pellors” a plane has! He found this plane stuff all very “tresting” – not testing but interesting of course!

And this is interesting from a linguistic point of view. Until he said “tresting”, I had noticed that for most words of more than 2 syllables, he would say the stressed syllable and one other, usually the one after it. A good example of this is “pellor” – he misses off the unstressed first syllable and starts with the stressed second syllable and also says the third unstressed one. From what I’ve read, this is quite normal and logical for English acquiring toddlers. But “tresting” really is interesting, because he misses off the stressed syllable “in-” and makes the second unstressed syllable, which I normally say with a ‘reduced’ vowel (‘uh’ sort of sound), the stressed syllable with a full ‘e’ (as in egg) vowel. Sorry if you don’t find the science as fascinating as me, I just can’t help but write about it!

Apart from plane talk, we’ve had a few funees involving characters he knows from DVDs this week. It seems that in Andrew’s world, Bob the Builder is a genius who can fix literally anything. If Andrew sees something broken, anything broken, he proclaims Nevermind, Bob’ll fix it!”. Apparently Bob’s talents extend to broken train tracks that little brothers have destroyed, broken bananas, and much more that I can’t remember off the top of my head! And apparently his talents even extend to finding lost things (or rather things that have been deliberately lost), as Andrew reassured me that “Bob’ll find it” after he’s pushed a xylophone stick through the small holes in the decking that is the balcony floor!

Whenever he’s said goodbye to someone leaving our flat recently, he’s informed me that they’ve gone to work. So when Granny and Grandad left last weekend, he said “Granny and Grandad gone to work”, and when Grandma and Pop left the day after, they went to the same place apparently: “Grandma and Pop gone to work.” And when he said bye bye to the Teletubbies the other day on his DVD, he shouted loudly “Teletubbies gone to work!” I’m just imagining Tinky Winky with a briefcase now! I presume he’s extending the fact that he says bye bye to Daddy when he goes to work to everyone he says bye bye to at home.


Finally, I can’t forget the incident with Thomas (of Tank Engine fame) one lunchtime this week. The day before I’d whizzed up some chick peas, olive oil and yoghurt in the blender to make the classic dip made from chick peas. When Andrew asked what it was, I told him. Fast forward to the next day and as I was sitting Joel up for lunch with said dip already on the table with some rice cakes, Andrew (who was already sat up ready and waiting for his, of course) suddenly started repeating “Want Thomas” over and over again, getting louder and louder, as I tried to ask him why he was saying that – “Where’s Thomas?”, “Can you see Thomas the Tank somewhere Andrew?” etc. Eventually it dawned on me – “AH you mean HUMMOUS Andrew!” “Yes Mummy, that’s right, fummous” Cue lots of laughter from me….. Since then I have overheard him on a few occasions saying “Thomas, fummous, Thomas, fummous (etc.)” to himself 🙂

Wot So Funee?


Let him eat cake – wot so funee?

Once again Andrew has been coming out with some great funees this week. In his world, there is a lot of cake. If it’s something that looks edible, or is in a place with other things he knows are edible, but he’s not tried it himself before, then he will often call it a “X cake” [for X insert suitable describing word]. At the weekend I made some cheesy spinach and tomato mini muffins. They were in a tin on the table for Saturday lunch, and to try and alleviate the tantrum that was ensuing from the fact that I had dared to put soup and cheesy muffins on the table instead of his addiction of cheese sandwiches, I offered him one saying “Would you like one of these Andrew? They’re cheesy!” From behind the flood of tears, the drama king could just about be heard blubbing “Andrew want cheese cake” – to be fair they are kind of cheese cakes, but it tickled me thinking of actual cheesecake and there was no way he was having the treat of actual cheesecake.

On Sunday we went out for a picnic lunch with Granny and Grandad. Now Granny had been very organised and done up a cooler bag with food and of course an ice pack to keep it cool in the 19 degrees heat that we were finally experiencing. After we’d finished most of the food, Andrew was interested in looking into the bag, probably fishing for more food, just in case we’d missed anything. And we had – he found an “ice cake”, which was all blue and cold!

And along with these cheese cakes and ice cakes I won’t forget the sausage cakesthat I made the other week, another funee from Andrew’s world of cake!

Sadly the parrot bouncy ball that I mentioned in a previous wot so funee post met a watery end last weekend (read the story here), but Andrew still has parrots on his mind. Every Tuesday morning he and Daddy go to a music group where one of the activities is singing songs and playing games around a big multicoloured piece of fabric – the “parrot-shoot” 🙂

The toddler pièce de resistance this week must be an incident in the communal bike shed by our flat that unfortunately I missed as I had gone inside to feed Joel, but Daddy recounted for me later. Daddy was locking up his bike as he had just got home on it, and Andrew was walking past the row of bikes wheeling his bike next to him which he’d just been riding for the past hour. Suddenly a not so subtle sound eeked out from Andrew’s nappy area. Daddy looked up and was greeted with “Daddy did it!” from Andrew who just continued to nonchalantly walk past with his bike. “Erm, no, Andrew did it”, replied Daddy, but this was just refuted with a louder “Daddy did it!” at which point Daddy could see that he was going to lose the fight so gave up – he knows Andrew has inherited my determination. Thankfully everyone else in the flats seems to commute to London, so there was nobody else around at 5.30pm to witness this!


Wot So Funee?

Spesul divvy service – wot so funee?

This week there has been a lot of talk of a certain deliverer of letters and parcels whose initials are PP. We have a few random episodes of the original TV series on DVD, but recently Grandad thought it would be a great idea to record some of the new ‘SDS’ episodes that are currently shown on CBeebies for us as we don’t have a TV. For anyone who isn’t well acquainted with this televisual feast, the new series sees Pat in a courier role delivering one-off parcels rather than working for Royal Mail, because (according to Wikipedia) since 2000 the programme has not been sponsored by Royal Mail, which had previously used the show as a marketing vehicle, as they felt that the character no longer fitted in with the company’s “corporate image”. Hmmmm…..

Well Andrew is slightly obsessed with his recorded DVD (thanks Grandad, not) and its catchy (read: it annoyingly sticks in your head for the rest of the day and night) theme tune. When asked which DVD he’d like to watch, this past week around 90% of the time his answer has been Postman Pat, and when asked to clarify which series, he has often replied with ‘spesul divvy service’ (special delivery service – what the SDS stands for). I wonder who the ‘divvy’ could be?! If the next story is anything to go by, I don’t think it’s Andrew!

He loves all the different vehicles that Pat now has. It’s no longer just the good old post van of ‘he picks up all the post bags in his van’ theme tune fame. There’s now a helicopter, a motorbike, a quad bike, a forklift truck and two vans (a mini one and a big one). As we were walking back from the shops the other day, a rather loud vehicle whooshed past us – it was a motortrike. Before he could see it, Andrew initially asked ‘What’s that Mummy?’, as he usually does straight away for things he hasn’t heard before. I said ‘It’s a motorbike Andrew’, only just having realised myself that it actually had three wheels and not wanting to complicate matters. To which he replied, once he’d seen it himself, ‘No Mummy it’s a quad bike, just like Postman Pat’s!’ I stood corrected (almost) 😉

(Warning: watching this video may send you mad by putting the theme tune in your head!)

To finish our Postman Pat themed funee post this week, there was a linguistically very interesting speech error that Andrew made at the weekend. We were with family, one of whom is Uncle Matt to Andrew. We were sat around a table outside a cafe playing the usual fun game of Andrew naming everyone to check that we were all there – Mummy, Daddy, Granny, Grandad…..Postman P… He stopped himself at the ‘puh’ of Pat and corrected himself to Uncle Matt. Clearly he’s got the post guy on his mind!

But I find this particularly interesting from a linguistic point of view because Postman Pat and Uncle Matt have the same stress pattern. If you say the two ‘rhythmically’, you should notice that they have the same ‘beat’ – try tapping along to it and that might make more sense. And obviously Pat rhymes with Matt. When we make an error in speech, by saying something that we didn’t mean to, this gives us an insight into how the brain and mouth are operating to give the end result, whether that was intended or not. It’s interesting to see that Andrew was planning on saying Uncle Matt, that’s what he meant, but Postman Pat slipped in instead – it’s like he had a stress pattern or template there but somewhere along the way from brain to mouth the wrong sounds were made to fill that template in.

Wot So Funee?

Parrot fashion – wot so funee?

It was last Tuesday evening when the four of us were having dinner that this little scene happened. I wish I’d had my video camera on, but short of having it running all day every day, I’m unlikely to catch the funny things that Andrew comes out with on video.

I’d served up a slow cooked veggie casserole with mashed potato, which Andrew has eaten several times before. But for some reason he wasn’t too keen, I think because he could see courgettes in it, which is unusual because usually he’ll eat pretty much anything. So after having picked at it and eaten about half what was in his bowl, he was refusing to eat the rest….

Mummy: Come on Andrew, eat some more please.

Andrew: No don’t want it!

Daddy: Look Daddy’s eating it. It’s quite nice really.

M: Quite nice? Oh come on Daddy, big it up a bit, big it up!

(D in background desperately trying to dig himself out of that hole!)

A: Come on Daddy, pick it up a bit, pick it up!

D: We’ve got a parrot here haven’t we. An actual live talking parrot.

A: PARROT!! PARROT!! (Both said in Len Goodman style ‘SEVEN’ intonation)

M: Yep!

Wot so funee about that? Nothing if you’re a toddler parrot 🙂

This is the parrot bouncy ball that he got as a souvenir at Birdland last weekend on our family day out. He is absolutely obsessed with it! Balls in general are his favourite thing at the moment, and this one in particular.
This is the parrot bouncy ball that he got as a souvenir at Birdland last weekend on our family day out. He is absolutely obsessed with it! Balls in general are his favourite thing at the moment, and this one in particular.

Incidentally, I found it interesting that he thought Daddy said ‘pick it up’ instead of ‘big it up’. He’s heard the verb ‘pick it up’ much more often (many times a day!) than ‘big it up’, and the sounds that make up the ‘pick’ and ‘big’ are very similar. The sounds ‘p’ and ‘b’ are both made by closing the lips and releasing them again, but the time it takes for the vowel to start after this closure and release is longer in ‘p’ than ‘b’; if you try saying each of them and put your hand a short distance in front of your mouth, you should feel a puff of air for ‘p’ but not ‘b’ – in techie speak, ‘p’ is aspirated. The same goes for ‘k’ and ‘g’ – they are made by closing the mouth at the back by bringing the back of the tongue up to the soft palate and then releasing it again, but the time it takes for the vowel to start after this closure and release is longer in ‘k’ than ‘g’; if you try it like you did for ‘p’ and ‘b’, you should feel a puff of air for ‘k’ not ‘g’. Though in the context of a following vowel (the ‘i’ of ‘it’), it’s also to do with the fact that the vocal folds keep vibrating during the closure of ‘g’ but they stop for ‘k’ – try this by putting your hand against your throat (on your Adam’s apple or larynx – less prominent in us ladies) and saying ‘pick it’ and ‘big it’ – you should feel a short gap in the vibration for ‘pick it’ and not ‘big it’. So there’s my phonetics lesson for the day!

Wot So Funee?