If you were teaching someone a foreign language, would you write down the proper word on the blackboard, or a made-up one of your choosing? Would you require them to end each noun with the letter ‘y’, regardless of the actual spelling? Then why, oh why, do you insist on talking to my children about the nice doggy, the ickle fishy, the pretty dolly, and the bloody horsey?
Why is a car a ‘brum-brum’ and an ambulance a ‘nee-naw’?
Do I really have to change my baby’s ‘botty’?
I mean seriously, what is wrong with teaching our children proper English from the outset? I loathe baby talk with the fury of a thousand dirty nappies, and have refused point-blank to allow it in the house. There is plenty of time for our children to murder our beautiful language with the slang of teenage grunts and txt spk. For their first few speaking years, at least, can’t we teach them the beauty of real words, without patronising them with baby language?
My personal pet hate is the teaching of the word ‘ta’ to babes in arms. Perhaps if ‘ta’ is a term you use yourself, it is understandable that your child will learn it too, although I still shudder at the thought. But what I simply can’t understand is educated parents who would no sooner say ‘ta’ for their tea than they would hang leopard-print dice from the rear-view mirror of their Range Rover. It’s not a proper word! What’s wrong with thank you? Or thanks? How is that harder to say than ‘ta’? A ten month old might not enunciate her consonants as well as Eliza Doolittle, but she’ll have a damn good stab at it.
The fact that I’m a snob is well established, and I make no apologies for it. I want my children to grow up using decent English and I believe it’s important for our heritage and our self-respect as a nation that we encourage the next generation to cherish their language. After all, it’s a gift. Innit?