Thursday, October 18, 2007

Not-Quite-Five-Year-Old Logic

So the Pillowfight Fairy had cleaned the food off her plate tonight, and wanted some additional fruit. Specifically, she's developed a taste for the pitted dates that we buy bulk at our local grocery store. She asked for some of these. Then, just as Mommy was about to put several on her plate, she unlocked her word-hoard and pulled out the grammatically cringe-inducing:

"I do not want no dates."

Well, that's gratitude for you! I knew that little girls could be finnicky, but to change one's mind in just the time it takes for Mommy to move from the kitchen to the dining-room table, indicates that someone is perhaps a wee bit spoiled. Not to mention that it was very rude to make Mommy get up, go get something, and bring it all the way in, and then just to reject it.

Except, that none of this was the case. And the Fairy was in fact being completely grammatically and logically consistent.

You see, she was using the literal meaning of the double negative, "I do not want no dates"--or worded slightly differently, "It is not the case that I don't want any dates." Meaning, of course, "I want dates."

I admit I don't understand all the ways that a five-year-old mind works. But I remember experimenting with the English Language in exactly this way when I was a kid--so in some strange way, this little incident made sense to me. And it probably means that my little girl already has a very well-developed left cerebral hemisphere. :-)


The McMullen Family said...

Family legend has it that my two-year-old brother once asked my dad, when I was a wee infant, "Why doesn't Linda never get to play any records?" To which my dad replied, "She doesn't." In this case, I guess, my dad was applying that not-quite-five-year-old logic. It may have been lost on my brother.

Timothy Power said...

Yeah, you can never trust what dads say.

I remember asking my dad, when I was a little kid, what the purpose of hair was. After all, it doesn't seem to have much of a practical purpose; you can cut it off, and be none the worse for it. I couldn't figure out what it was there for.

Dad, without skipping a beat, said: "It's there to keep you from getting a sunburn on the top of your head."

And that made sense, so I said, "Oh, Ok," and didn't think anything more about it. In retrospect I suspect my dad was pretty pleased with himself for that one.

Some of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes comic strips were the ones where the dad was "explaining" things to a very confused Calvin. This appears to be a universal phenomenon.