Does “AXYDLBAAXR = LONGFELLOW” mean anything to you? In a cryptogram puzzle, each letter stands for a different letter of the alphabet. I don’t like to brag, but I’ve been doing newspaper “Cryptoquotes” with my mom since I was a kid, and I’m a real whiz at them.
I also happen to operate at the genius level when it comes to Mad Gab, the game where you have to figure out what popular phrase sounds like a group of random words. For example, “Up Racked Hick Gulch Oak” is “A Practical Joke.” But again, I don’t like to brag. P.S. I’m also awesome at Boggle. P.P.S. I bet you just read the Mad Gab sample out loud to yourself.
So my word game knack has translated well into deciphering the developing language skills of my toddler, Henry. My husband Cory (a worthy Scrabble opponent himself) and I have put our brains to the test to figure out what in the world Henry is talking about.
We know that his pet letters are “B” and “D” — often subbed in for difficult letters. So “Bock” could mean walk or rock. We have to use context to figure the rest out. Is he pointing to where his stroller is kept? Oh dear lord, I hope he hasn’t just eaten a rock.
He’ll also make up his own associations. We now know that “high bush” means he wants to swing. (His grandparents Bobby and DeeDee have a swing that bonks into a shrub if you go up too high. Henry loves it.)
We thought maybe “Dape” meant diaper — but we put the pieces of the puzzle together, remembering that we heard him call his daycare friend Gigi “DeeDee” (the same name he calls Grandma Avon! Perhaps there’s more to that). So we then conclude that D’s are G’s and realize he was saying “Grape.” Which makes sense, because he would NEVER ask for more diaper.
If you took Mad Libs and crossed it with charades, that’s what it would be like to have a conversation with Henry. He’ll run into the room and announce, “This!” and you have to fill in the blanks based on what he’s pointing at, and the words he can say, and what you know about his experiences with those things.
We’re rewarded with an ear-to-ear grin when we get it right, and it’s quite the prize to bring him “More Dape” or take him for a “Bock” once we’ve figured it out.
We do have a few stumpers, though: “Obby Dobby” and “Bunties.” Any ideas?
This Family Time column originally ran in the Glens Falls Chronicle on July 3, 2014.