Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dada, duh.

His first consonant was M: "Um," he'd say, "um." I convinced myself it was when he was asking to nurse, and I'm probably not far off, except that he's more or less always asking to nurse, in that he's never been presented with a boob he didn't immediately avail himself of.

Then it was B: "Bob Bob Bob Bob," he'd say, smashing peas, "Bob." Andy has an uncle Bob, but Ben has never met him.

Then D: "Da-da-da-da!" he exclaims, having followed the ball and captured it, "Da!" But his vowel sounds are expanding now, too, and so sometimes we also get an emphatic "Duh!" And there are times I swear he says "Doi" in exactly the tone a teenager might, to express weary frustration with her interlocutor's ignorance.

No one in grocery stores or waiting rooms had anything to say about Bob, but boy do I hear about Da. "They always say Dada first," the crones insist on telling me, in tones of deepest sympathy, "but Mama will come."

"It's not a word," I say, because I'm pigheaded enough to argue the point rather than just nod and smile. "He's just making the sound."

He says it with relish and delight when encountering the dogs ("Da!"), with engaged curiosity when encountering new objects ("Da?"). He greets most people with it, which means that maybe a third of the men we encounter get awkward and sheepish and stammer something about not being his dad. (Doi, dude.) "Don't worry," I say, "He says 'da-da' to bananas and his feet, too."

It was a thoroughly goofy artistic movement, Dada, the sort of thing everybody should think was fabulous in high school and then immediately get over. It doesn't get an "-ism", either (no matter what Wikipedia says), so you can cut that right out (Alex Trebek, I'm looking at you). I haven't thought about Man Ray so often since high school.

"LHOOQ," I tell Ben in lousy French, "It's a pun."

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