"Son, 'He ain't got no brains or nothing' is not the correct way to
say that your brother is an idiot..."
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. I'm almost
certain it's 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 I'm on a
diet. She deflated like a balloon.
I told we could go to a place that had sugar-free ice cream.
She reinflated... then she laughed.
"I'm bilateral, aren't I?" she asked.
"I'm afraid I don't see the connection," I said, puzzled.
"You know, I switch moods very fast."
"Do you mean bipolar?" I asked.
"Oh yeah," she said. "Bilateral means you can speak two
"Nope." I smiled. "That's bilingual."
"Oh, phooey!" she sighed.
"If it's any consolation," I said, "you probably are bilingual. I
just don't know what the other language is."
My 14-year-old has an obsession with the words "always," "never,"
"all" and "none." He rarely means these words, but exaggeration
sounds better to him.
"All the kids in middle school took drugs," he said. He was
trying to impress upon me the dangers of public school. I knew his
intention, but I couldn't let it go without correcting him.
[to top of second column]
"You mean to say that some or a few kids in middle school took
"No, all of them did," he said.
"Were you in middle school?"
"Yeeeessss," he said, rolling his eyes.
"And did you take drugs?"
"No! Do I look stupid?"
"Then ALL the kids did not take drugs, right? Maybe you knew a
lot that did?"
"That's what I said!"
"No, that's what you meant."
...And the endless loop of teenage conversation goes on...
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:
I was very impressed with his correct spelling of "instantaneous"
even though he mangled "permission."
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 "instantaneous
death" wasn't 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, "Instantaneous
Death" apparently means "$10 or you have to do my chores for a
No wonder he acts like he's dying when I ask him to clean his
[By LAURA SNYDER]
Laura Snyder is a nationally syndicated columnist,
author and speaker. You can reach her at
or visit www.lauraonlife.com
for more info.