Kern Family Health banner 25 yrs

Humor@home: Slurping Down Phonics

Wait, How Do You Say That?


My   daughter mispronounces a lot of words she sees in books but has never actually heard pronounced in everyday conversation.

It has become a sort of comic relief for the rest of us when she blurts out things like, “Oh no, what if he’s choking? We might have to give him the HIM-leech maneuver.” And you’re standing there wondering if you should pay attention to the potential choking victim or try to figure out what in the world the HIM-leech maneuver is. And by the time you say, “Oh, the Heimlich maneuver,” and chuckle to yourself, the poor guy could be turning blue in the face.

Her artist palette is a “puh-tell.” Cliché is “clitch” (rhymes with glitch). Narcolepsy is “nar-soap-i-lee.” Macintosh is “mic-in-stash.” Which sounds like it would refer to a box of loose change and small bills that you have saved for those late night runs to the Golden Arches.

It happens with words she hears, too. M. C. Hammer, the 1980s rap artist, is referred to as “Epsy Hammer” in our house.

There was the time she told me she thought she had “meg-in-I-tis.”

“Why do you think you have that?”

“Oh, because I’m cold. Wait, what is meg-in-I-tis?”

“I think you mean meningitis. It doesn’t make you cold. It makes you sick.”

“Oh, yeah. I don’t have that.”


She also sometimes gets the word completely wrong and substitutes it with another word, creating confusion. Like the time she came into my room at 5:45. When I told her she could come back in an hour and get me up, she said, “But I’m so bored. I’ve been awake for over an hour already. I think I have pneumonia… uh… I mean… what’s that word again for when you can’t sleep?”


“Yeah. I have insomnia.”

And I’m thinking, ok, but I don’t, so please come back in an hour.

But she is wide awake, so she asks me, “What are those words called when you put two words together with a hyphen like check-in and make-up?”

“Compound words.”

“Oh, they’re not contractions?”

Um. No.

“What about when you put two words together with no hyphen, like backpack?”

“Still compound words.”

Long pause.

“So what are contractions again?”

Oh dear.

And then there are the times when she will recognize that we are using a word that she has known and has been mispronouncing for a long time: “Oh. That’s how you pronounce kerosene? I thought it was ket-a-bean.” Which sounds an awful lot like “get a bean,” which gets me giggling.

I think she learned to read too fast. Like when you drink a soda too fast, and you feel like all that air is trapped in your nose and you wonder if you’re going to pass out—or at least lose your footing and fall on your face.

Yeah. So that is how she went from sounding out r-a-t, rat, to reading “Charlotte’s Web” (yes, on her own, yes with comprehension) in a matter of about a year. This kid never slowed down enough to pay attention to phonics. I am sure she learned and internalized letter sounds at some point, but it was like she took a big gulp of reading, got it down, and promptly forgot how to apply the rules to new words.

And so here we are.

We recently got one of those automatic vacuum robots, by the way. We named it Epsy Hammer. You know, so we can giggle about this cute phase for years to come.

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Tags: Parenting

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