Thursday, January 22, 2015

Talking "Yousef"

Jannah-Rae has always been a great communicator. She began uttering words from an early age and her two word sentences weren't too far behind. Her vocabulary developed quickly and grew in complexity. And while bilingual, she was able to grasp both languages with ease. Soon enough she was conversing like an adult and chatting up everyone in sight. She would approach people of all ages and not shy away from strangers. Girls on the playground, old ladies on the bus, the cashier at the grocery store, the driver on the bus. She compliments frequently and narrates openly. So when her little brother began sputtering what is incomprehensible to most, we were not surprised at her ability to interpret his words, mimic his mode of communication, and adapt her own style of speaking to match his.

On any given day you could hear Jannah-Rae speak eloquently to adults, and what may sound as gibberish to Yousef without missing a beat. Hearing them talk would entail a combination of the following phrases:

  • "Yousef, baddak (do you want) kikeek (chicken or duck) or baa (anything with four legs such as horse or cow or pig or sheep)?"
  • "Yousef, you want baubbles?" which may mean taking a bubble bath, blowing bubbles or playing with snow. His word for snow is "baubbles."
  • "Yousef, here is totoot (car)."
  • "Yousef get cho-choo (train)."
  • "Yousef do you want mai (water in Arabic) or mammam (food)?" "Mai is also his word for juice, soup, soda, milk, or anything liquid. Mama's coffee is "mai" for example. This morning it took me a while to understand what he was asking for, "I want choo-choo mai." We were at Target and I looked around to see juice bottles with Thomas the Train as their cap. He knew what he was talking about! 
  • "Yousef let's go bye (out)."
  • "Yousef get guy (his catch-all word for figurines."
  • "Here you go, Yousef, here is your bal (ball or balloon)"
  • "Time for dodo (sleep) Yousef."
  • "Yousef say Na3am (yes in Arabic)."
  • "Yousef say 'Cheerios,' "eerios," comes the reply.
  • "Yousef, let's go baa (let's ride the carousel)."
  • "Yousef, do you want this?" "I want dis," says Yousef.
  • "Yousef, say 'what's this'." "What's dis," repeats Yousef emphasizing the 's like it is a separate word.
  • "Yousef, wein (where is) ou-ou-ah-ah?" They are looking for the monkey.
  • "Baddak ba3ed (do you want more), Yousef?" "I want moe.... (insert a Yousef word)"
  • If he says "I want cho-choo" when I say "let's go bye" then he wants to go plain with the trains at Barnes and Noble. 
  • "Uh-oh" was one of his first words, if not his very first. He uses it he drops, drips, spills or breaks something or someone else does it. 
  • When referring to something not within his vocabulary, it is "kookoo-keekee"which is his all purpose go to word.
  • "Mama, guy totoot" means Mama put the figurine I am holding in my hand onto the car nearby. 
  • "Yousef, fi (is there) kaka?" Jannah-Rae would ask. In this context she is asking him if he has to poop. "Kaka" is the baby word for poop in Lebanese jargon. Yousef uses it for poop and pee interchangeably, and has added to it another meaning: trash. Holding a dirty napkin or an empty wrapper, cup, plate or box, or a dirty diaper Yousef would say "kaka" and run to the trash can or toilet (yes, we have fished out dirty diapers from the toilet!) 
  • "Kaka" can also mean diaper if he is looking at one, even a clean one. 
  • To him I am either Mam, Mama, or Mami and Jannah-Rae is "baby." 
  • When he wants what his sister has be it food or toy or activity, he blurts "I want me."
  • "Ta3a (come)" he calls out to his sister when he wants her to join him, when he wants to show her something, or wants to hold her hand. 
  • "Wein guy?" "Wein totoot?" is one of his favorite games. 
  • "Baabie" is how he calls Barbie or any version thereof. Dolls and his human playmates are "baby."
  • When he wants to watch Super Why or see a segment on the iPad it is "I want Y," or "I want baa" respectively.
  • When it is time to brush his teeth, Yousef asks for "llla" running his tongue across his upper lip. How he associated that sound with brushing teeth is still a mystery to me. 
  • During the holiday season Yousef and Jannah-Rae got a lot of gifts but we opened one or two a day. If Yousef wanted to open a present he would say, "I want wow." or "I want yay." 
  • "I want ph," meant he wants to blow out the candle "ph" being the sound that comes out of his lips when he is blowing out. 
  • When we get in the car, the first thing he asks for is "mimi," his word for music.
  • And, if there is something he is pointing at and cannot articulate it is "bi" or "daba." In reality "daba" is a word that means "now" in Darija or Moroccan Arabic, except for Yousef it means whatever random object he is interested in. 
  • When Yousef is finished he says "ba7".
So you see, Yousef has a lot of contextual words and Jannah-Rae has become an expert on his speech. So much so, that many a time I find myself asking her "what does Yousef want?" hoping she would clarify what exactly he is after. 

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