Magic Words


Miriam tried again her ‘magic word’ game, “It begins with ‘p’ and ends with ‘e’.” The choice of time was unfortunate; I was in a hurry to some other purpose, so I snapped back “please.” “That’s not it,” Miriam claimed, for who can tolerate any conundrum’s immediate solution? Sensing my impatience, she laughed and said, “It’s a pickle.”

Later in the evening, when we were both unhurried and glad of the other’s company, Miriam asked for a bedtime story. Since she’s learned to read, Miriam’s bedtime stories have changed. We read many stories to her before, so now she reads to us. This evening she climbed into my lap and read two library books by Sid Hoff: Who Will be my Friends and Thunderhoof (a book she much enjoyed my reading to her last year). Miriam read both books perfectly; then, as I told her it was bed time and she should go for her bath, she inquired as to what was the magic word. ‘Please’ was rejected outright. “No. It begins with a ‘t’.” When I complained that such was too weak a hint, that there were ever so many words beginning with ‘t’, Miriam added that it ended with an ‘e’. I tried, with little hope: tie, and twine, tweedledee and terpsichore. “No.” Another hint, please? Miriam replied, “It has to do with hands.” Three, perhaps? “And it makes people laugh.” So I tickled her until she fell off my lap and left, supposedly to her bath.

To interpret this series of events, one need know that Miriam’s
current favorite of rhymes is this doggerel couplet:

Tickle, tickle, rhymes with pickle.
If you laugh, give me a nickel.

Miriam enjoys being tickled and I oblige her.

So, please goes to pickle and pickle to tickle: obvious connections after the fact with sufficient data available. But who would dare predict the next magic word ?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email