Whenever we ride to Logo in the MG, Miriam has a standing request
that we follow Memorial Drive down past the underpass at Massachusetts
Avenue. The children like the magnification of their voices provided
when they shout in a closed place. Over the past several years, we have
agreed that they may do such shouting when I am driving them about in
the MG, but not otherwise.
While we lived in Connecticut, the children introduced the ejaculation
“Daddy is a dum-dum” as their underpass chant. I don’t recall
the details but merely the impression that its use involved some sort
of trick (perhaps a promise, not to be kept, that if I let them shout
they would not broadcast what a dummy I am). The children believe this
annoys me, and they relish it as a way of teasing me.
When, two days ago, from the BU Bridge I preferred the Vassar Street
route to the Mass. Ave. underpass, Miriam claimed she was mad at me and
was going to quit my thesis project. I complained to her: “Do you think
I like to hear you shout that I’m a dum-dum? You always yell that.
Don’t you think that hurts my feelings?”
Today, as Robby, Miriam, and I drove home from Logo, we took the
scenic route — down Memorial Drive. Once again the cry was raised.
We continued down Mem. Drive and Miriam looked troubled. “Daddy, we
really don’t think you’re a dum-dum. But we like to shout under bridges
and don’t know anything else to say.”
This anecdote exemplifies how peculiarly specific is Miriam’s use
of speech. The phrase “Daddy is a dum-dumb” is thought of as a chant-
for-passing-under-bridges, but one devoid of semantic content.
Miriam’s sensitivity to my feelings led her over the past few days
to attempt the development of a new chant. She came up with:
Daddy is a smart-smart.
Daddy is a smart-dumb.
Daddy is a dumb-smart.
Having asked Robby for help she received this suggestion (his view is
different from hers):
|Is Daddy a dummy?
|Is Daddy a smarty?
|What is he?
This latter expression is clearly a relatively flexible variation on
some small script for a shouting-insult.