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Laura on Life: Bipolar, bilateral…whatever

You would think that, having a mother who is a writer, my children would be fairly competent when it comes to the English language. Spelling, grammar and vocabulary should be strengths for them because I correct them, constantly.
ěSon, ëHe ainít got no brains or nothingí is not the correct way to say that your brother is an idiotÖî
This tests not only my own English savvy, but also my parenting skills. Should I correct the insult to his brother or the insult to the English language?
Though triple negatives make me cringe into my turtleneck, personal insults are just plain unacceptable. However, trying to dissect the statement to determine whether it was indeed an insult hurts my brain. The intent was obvious, but until I decide whether it was truly an insult, I can only correct the sentence.
My daughter has an interesting grasp of vocabulary. Iím almost certain itís not English vocabulary, though.
We were driving in my car. She suddenly sat up with a big smile and asked if we could go for ice cream. I told her that Iím on a diet. She deflated like a balloon.
I told we could go to a place that had sugar-free ice cream. She reinflatedÖ then she laughed.
ěIím bilateral, arenít I?î she asked.
ěIím afraid I donít see the connection,î I said, puzzled.
ěYou know, I switch moods very fast.î
ěDo you mean bipolar?î I asked.
ěOh yeah,î she said. ěBilateral means you can speak two languages, right?î
ěNope.î I smiled. ěThatís bilingual.î
ěOh, phooey!î she sighed.
ěIf itís any consolation,î I said, ěyou probably are bilingual. I just donít know what the other language is.î
My fourteen-year old has an obsession with the words always, never, all and none. He rarely means these words, but exaggeration sounds better to him.
ěAll the kids in middle school took drugs,î he said. He was trying to impress upon me the dangers of public school. I knew his intention, but I couldnít let it go without correcting him.
ěYou mean to say that some or a few kids in middle school took drugs, right?î
ěNo, all of them did,î he said.
ěWere you in middle school?î
ěYeeeessss,î he said, rolling his eyes.
ěAnd did you take drugs?î
ěNo! Do I look stupid?î
ěThen ALL the kids did not take drugs, right? Maybe you knew a lot that did?î
ěThatís what I said!î
ěNo, thatís what you meant.î
ÖAnd the endless loop of teenage conversation goes onÖ
My youngest boy is a selectively good speller. I noticed a sign on his bedroom door the other day. It was attached to the door with 700 bits of masking tape.
The sign read: DO NOT ENTER MY ROOM WITHOUT MY PERMISHON. Then he drew skull and crossbones and wrote underneath: INSTANTANEOUS DEATH!
I was very impressed with his correct spelling of ěinstantaneousî even though he mangled ěpermission.î
I would have chastised him for threatening the members of our household with their certain and immediate demise, but reading further, I realized that perhaps his definition of ěinstantaneous deathî wasnít the same as mine.
On a small scrap of paper taped under the first, he wrote a disclaimer. As I read, I realized that, for my son, ěInstantaneous Deathî apparently means ě$10 or you have to do my chores for a week.î
No wonder he acts like heís dying when I ask him to clean his room.
Laura Snyder is a nationally syndicated columnist, author and speaker. You can reach her at lsnyder@lauraonlife.com Or visit her website www.lauraonlife.com for more info.

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