3V0385.01 Peggy’s nose; two element phrase from idiom variation 2/11/79
Peggy sat on my lap, and Miriam, feeling left out, demanded the same privilege. Gretchen has been naming face parts with Peggy for months and Peggy cooperates by reaching out to touch her nose when Gretchen asks, “Where’s my nose?” Miriam asked, “Peggy, where’s my nose?” Her use of “Peggy” was a calling and the word nose was emphasized. Miriam continued, after Peggy’s response, “Where’s Daddy’s nose?” Peggy again touched Miriam’s nose. Miriam said, “No!” and pointing at my face, said, “Daddy’s nose.” Miriam next asked, “Where’s Peggy’s nose?” When Peggy pointed to Miriam’s face, she said, “No. That’s my nose. Where’s Peggy’s nose?” Peggy turn to me and reached out an finger to me. “No. That’s Daddy’s nose.” Miriam continued, “Where’s Peggy’s nose?” Peggy then brought up her hand to her own nose, and Miriam gave her a hug and praised her discovery of her own nose.
Relevance — This may or may not be Peggy’s “discovery of her own nose” (I tend to doubt it is). What I see important in this incident is an example of a process of meaning refinement which requires the joint handling by Peggy of two words, one of which is treated by the speaker as variable, i.e. what Peggy handles as an idiomatic utterance is required to be interpreted as a two- element phrase. The guidance Peggy receives in this setting, both explicit and implicit (the latter by using new terms ‘Daddy’ and ‘Peggy’ with which she is very familiar) is so strong as to be instruction. The requirement for analyzing the idiom to parts and varying one is a very primitive introduction of structure, an impressing of structure upon an idiom. Peggy’s trial and error process of interpreting “Where’s Peggy’s nose?” exemplifies how the differentiation of meaning and the development of structure comprehension is an empirical learning.