I used to watch House Party, a daytime talk show that ran from 1952-1969 on CBS. My favorite part involved host Art Linkletter interviewing children, ranging in age from five to ten. He was very natural with them, and they were natural right back – so natural that he collected the best of their comments for his book Kids Say the Darndest Things.
Fifty years later, kids are still saying all kinds of adorable and wise and, yes, darned things. Here are a few chuckle-inducing examples from the kids it has been my great fortune to know and love.
Cute comments occur as little ones struggle to master the native tongue we know as English. One niece named GURPLE her favorite color and insisted that ducks say HOORAY. Several years ago, as television began stretching its technological wings, a nephew loved WWF wrestling on PAPERVIEW – known as “pay-per-view” to the rest of us.
Then there was my attempt to correct another nephew’s pronunciation of “spoon,” which he called a MOOSP. Using my best classroom method, I planted myself in front of him, instructing him to repeat my slow, careful rendition of the mispronounced “spoon.” Just as slowly and clearly, he parroted back: MOOSP!
We also experienced family confusion whenever my sister talked about her job at Miami University – our little nephew returned the favor by adjusting the pronoun reference to YOUR-AMI.
Children often name their grandparents according to things they associate with these beloved figures. My mother was SWEETHEART to one grandson because of her frequent use of that term of endearment. Across the Atlantic, two German children named their grandparents OMA UND OPA PUFFBAHN – translated as Grandma and Grandpa Choo-Choo Train – for the several trains that daily passed their house.
Frustration can also enter the daily equation between little ones and their elders. Much to his mother’s chagrin, one grandson occasionally lashed out at his babysitter/grandmother with a loud DUMMY GRANDMA! That same grandmother had to be dealt with when she let a most un-grandmotherly expletive fly in the kitchen one day. The granddaughter immediately hustled her dolls from the presence of the loose-lipped granny: I DON’T WANT MY BABIES TO HEAR THOSE WORDS!
We must all learn to live with little people’s concept of age: MY GRANDMA IS 103 or GRANDMA, YOU ARE THE OLDEST PERSON I KNOW. But we can also puddle up just reading these words handwritten on a paper brought home from kindergarten: YOU ARE THE BEST PERSON EVER. I LOVE YOU THE BEST!
While we often wonder about eventual occupations for the kids in our lives, the children in question latch on to their first career ideas by observing the adults around them. At a tender age my niece held CHILD SUPPORT MEETINGS, similar to the ones her payroll-clerk mother attended at work. So, it should not surprise anyone that the daughter of a teacher/mother would play SCHOOL TESTING with her little sister. Yet another niece decided to follow a multifaceted approach to future work plans: ON MONDAY I’LL BE A SECRETARY, ON TUESDAY A MAILMAN, ON WEDNESDAY A TRASH COLLECTOR – well, the idea is clear.
Even tech-savvy children have difficulty bridging the gap between Boomerdom and the 21st century. One young niece corrected the assertion of her older cousins that computers would eventually replace books: THERE WILL ALWAYS BE BOOKS. WHAT ELSE WOULD WE DO WITH OUR REALLY COOL BOOKMARKS? Many a new-age kid has been known to ask these concerning questions: WHAT’S A PHONEBOOK? WHAT’S A DRIVE-IN? WHAT’S A PAPER ROUTE? And there is that commercial extolling the virtues of watching TV on computers, phones, and tablets the one that ends with kids commenting: WATCH TV ON TV? THAT’S WEIRD!
Some childhood wisdom just cannot be categorized. Three decades ago a nephew excitedly reported that one of his preschool classmates HAS THE SAME BIRTHDAY AS I DO, before adding: AND WE WERE BORN ON THE SAME DAY, TOO! A few years later, the same little boy commented on his younger sister’s chatterbox proclivity: AND TO THINK WE WERE WORRIED SHE WOULDN’T LEARN TO TALK.
My own mother often reminded me of the time she angrily headed outside to fetch us for supper. She rounded the corner just in time to hear me advise my younger siblings: WE DON’T HAVE TO GO IN NOW. SHE HASN’T YELLED YET.
But children can also deliver the most plaintive of comments, ones sure to reduce us to mush. When one of my uncles was very young, he endured a long day of moving. That night he looked around his new house and asked his mother: MOM, CAN WE GO HOME NOW? And I still tear up when I recall a TV news report about a little boy and his mother finally able to relocate from a shelter to an apartment. As he surveyed his very first room with his very first bed, he whispered: I DIDN’T KNOW IT WOULD COME WITH COVERS…
I am often struck by the wisdom beyond their years that some children seem able to dispense. A while back, my first-grade great-niece told her mother it was important to BE FEARLESS, BE BRAVE, BE TENACIOUS. More recently, the same little girl posed the question we adults should be asking – and answering: I DON’T GET IT, MOMMY. WHY CAN’T PEOPLE JUST BE NICE? IT’S NOT THAT HARD.
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.