Sunday, June 9, 2013

Metaphorically "Speaking"

One of the most creative ways we use language is to point out similarities between things, similarities that strike us as especially informative, beautiful, or even funny. “His face was an open book.” “My love is like a red, red rose.” Such parallels are called metaphors or similes. You may be surprised to learn how early such creative begins—especially when babies know simple signs.

An airplane ride was the occasion for a particularly nice example: Fifteen-month-old Brandon was settling into his seat for his first airplane ride when he looked toward the window and began smacking his lips enthusiastically. “You see a fish?” asked his mom as she followed his gaze. But it was raining quite hard and all she could see was water dripping down the window beside his seat. Nevertheless, Brandon was insistent and continued to sign even more vehemently—fish, fish, FISH! Suddenly the mystery was solved as his mom looked at the window with different eyes. “Oh! I bet you’re telling me it looks like our aquarium at home!” said his mother in amazement. “You’re absolutely right. That’s where fishies live!” Brandon’s response? A big, satisfied grin.

Other babies have shown similar creativity with their signs: 11-month-old Cady calling the broccoli on her plate a “flower,” 18-month-old Elizabeth calling the long-hosed vacuum cleaner an “elephant,” 16-month-old Austin using the “monkey” sign to describe a particularly hairy young man, and 17-month-old Carlos describing a trip through the car wash as “wind” and “rain.”

Using signs, babies continue to teach us a valuable lesson: Bring fresh eyes to even an old place and you may be surprised by what you see!

Happy Signing! (and don’t forget to look for us on Facebook)


Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, the Baby Signs® Program
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
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