The Amazing Ricocheting Pedestals of Florida


Every once in a while, an iPad game will capture the complete and undivided attention of someone in the house for a few days. Gears had us all transfixed, as a household, for the better part of last summer, and Tiny Heroes arrested H and E for a good while earlier this year. The Room kept E occupied for most of a single, fixated evening. The most recent was a pretty simple, but elegantly-coded, app called Pool Break, which is – as you might imagine – a billiards sim. E watched me play over my shoulder for a few games before she asked if she could try. I told her a few basic rules, suggested a few things, and then told her to try the break.

“Amazing,” she said. “Those balls ricocheted everywhere.” Except it was clear that this was a word she’d read and understood without ever pronouncing it aloud, because it came out: those balls ri-COTCH-et-ed everywhere.

“Rick-o-shayed?” I said, and she looked up with an expression mixing intrigue and embarrassment. “Sorry,” I added. “That’s one you probably wouldn’t guess from the spelling.”

They come out less frequently these days, these quirky little reminders of how much they’ve read without the benefit of speaking some words aloud. As their conversations become more complex, their interactions with classmates and friends more intricate, more and more words get ‘socially corrected’ -and as a result, these bon mot/faux pas moments become few and far between. H and E have always read several years beyond their grade level, and with that has come a truly entertaining phenomenon: they know words, and can use them correctly in context – but can’t always pronounce them. (Pedestals, for a while, had its emphasis on the second syllable when E pronounced it, while Florida was executed much more phonetically.) I think it’s great that, rather than giving up on a five-dollar word, they’re inspired to go and find out what it means. (Although clearly I need to steer them toward online dictionaries, most of which will provide a spoken-word audio pronunciation.) There have been a few that really caught our ears, so to speak, and I try my best to toss them into a Google Docs file as I note them. As a result, in our house, the title of this post would be read – by E, anyway, – as the amazing riCOTCH-eting pe-DES-tals of Flow-RI-da.

When they’re not charmingly mangling words, sometimes they’re gluing them together. At the first hotel we ever stayed at with them, we arrived at our room at the precise moment that fresh towels were being delivered, a coincidental moment that spurred them to refer to hotels as ‘hotowels’ for years.

I’m torn at these moments. 50.000% of me desperately wants to correct all of these little mispronunciations. I can’t have my meteorologist daughter someday confusing viewers in the Miami area, for example, by telling them that Hurricane Jackson will soon be ri-COTCH-eting off of the coast of Flow-RIDA. And yet, the other 50.000% wants to allow them this unique space, this intellectually intense zone of exploration and discovery, in which they feel free to learn on their own, and their intellectual reach exceeds their grasp.

I’ll probably fall to the former, especially as they grow up, if only to prevent any long-term issues. But that doesn’t mean I can’t allow myself a smidge of entertainment in the meantime. I’m sure my mother was amused (slash-horrified) when I approached her with Woody Allen’s Without Feathers and asked her why the story about war did not, in fact, have any mention of warfare in it. The story? This one.

4 responses to this post.

  1. I thought I was the only parent dealing with this! DS8 has been doing this consistently for the last year. I have a bad habit of correcting and trying to pass it off as “well, that’s hard because it’s from Latin or French, etc.” The kid tried to insist his pronunciation was right at one point. I tried not to roll my eyes. I think we *have* to do it or people will look at them very strangely 😉


  2. …or just have no idea what they’re talking about.


  3. Posted by Brandi on January 29, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Please correct them! My husband and I were both avid but uncorrected readers. Learned bad habits are hard to break, especially when you’ve been wrong without knowing it for 30 years.


  4. Posted by Crystal on February 22, 2013 at 10:20 am

    With my girl, I give her the correct pronunciation and she smiles and tells me she likes the way her version sounds! I do caution her that a person might not understand what she’s trying to say but I’m met with the same sunny smile. At this point I figure that when it becomes important enough to her she will self correct or accept correction. Context is not an issue. On a side note of language, last year one recess a boy told on our daughter for using a “bad” word…MJ had told the boy he was terribly vexing and although he did not know what the word meant, he knew enough to know he was being insulted. In any case the recess supervisor while relaying this to me voiced her opinion that this is what happens when you allow children to read above their grade level. When I told her MJ was reading The Wizard Of Oz, a children’s book written for children, she made a noise in the back of her throat and said “I thought that was just a movie!” SIGH…My husband teases me and calls me a book snob, but really, a movie. If its important enough for MJ to get her point across she’ll say the words correctly whether the other person will understand is a different matter entirely.


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