What does an extremely verbal child do when the words she knows aren’t enough? She invents her own language. Norah’s had her own unique “yanguage” for quite a few months now. She calls it Winton.
Sometimes it can be difficult to know if Norah is actually speaking Winton, or English that is a bit muddled by her developing speech. For example, “Today we needa go to the YiiBayWee!” sounds extremely Wintonese, but is in fact her pronunciation of “library.” To further complicate the situation, many Winton words sound remarkably like English words of different meanings. “Chair” sounds a lot like “biscuit.” “Train” in Winton is “Poopy.” (My father asked me once in a discussion about Winton if Norah ever tells me she has a train in her pants . . . one can see the confusion that results.)
One morning she announced that, in Winton, Harriet’s name is actually “India.” She proceeded to refer to Harriet as “India” for the rest of the day. “I think India’s ready for her yunch, Mommy! India’s so hungwy!” and “India’s my bootaboo!” “What’s a bootaboo, Norah?” “Bootaboo is sister! That’s Winton!” (turning to Harriet) “I yuvv you my yittle bootaboo!”
I notice that Norah is often inspired to speak Winton on the bus. I think the reason is that Oxford is such an international city. In the city of a morning we often hear French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, and any number of other languages. One of her playmates speaks only French. We have neighbors that stand outside our door talking loudly in Hindi. It has made an impression. On the bus Norah will often suddenly begin to notice things about the town outside the window–or the appearance of the people around her–in a chattery combination of English and Winton.
I asked Norah, “How did you learn to speak Winton?”
“No one taught me. I just dood it myself.”
“And how do I say ‘I love you’ in Winton?”
“Well, then, AAAHHHH, Norah!”
“AAAHHHH yuvv you, too, Mommy!”