“Is he talking?” asked the doctor.
“Yes,” we said.
“Does he have at least 10 words?”
“Yes,” we said.

Does he really, though? we thought.

Declan probably knows 100 words. And on any given day, he’ll say 30 of them. But what’s in his brain is not always what comes out of his mouth. In terms of words the masses would understand, he’s probably got enough to fill one hand’s worth of fingers. Maybe two hands if the person handles sharp machinery without supervision.

But man does Declan have a lot of werds. That’s what Colleen and I are calling the vocalizations that sound suspiciously like real words but require special knowledge, context, or an educated guess to translate.

Like today. Declan was in the backseat of the car and chirped the following: “Daa! Gro!” Are those words? No. But they are werds. “Daa” is his version of Dad. Pretty easy one. “Gro” is a little tougher. It is one of only two werds he has that start with “G.” I’m kinda proud of the other one. All we have to do is hold up something orange and he usually obliges our enthusiasm and says “Go!” As in “Go Broncos!” He may have been born in Arizona, but Declan’s allegiance is clear.

The “Gro” grunt is only understandable with some context. He likes Sesame Street. He especially like the fuzzy blue monster that sounds an awful lot like Miss Piggy. So “Gro” is for “Grover.” These two words together–Dad and Grover– may sound like some sort of baby poetry slam in which random words are put together for no discernible reason. But you would be wrong. “Daa! Gro!” is actually a request. You see, I do a pretty decent impression of Grover. This morning, it was apparently worthy of an encore. Or 10.


There are other examples. “Buh” and “Bruh” require a glance around the room. Maybe it’s bread. Maybe it’s a bird. Maybe it’s a bear. A close cousin is “Bah” which is almost always ball except when there are no balls around.

“Duh” is dog or door.

“Nana” is still banana. “Ny-nuh” is somehow dinosaur. “Mama”, despite our best efforts to distinguish the two, is both Mama and water.

All these werds are pretty effective, really. Effective enough that I wonder if “mama” will always be water. But you have to fake it ’till you make it, right? That’s what they say.

And speaking of faking, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention his laffs. These should not be confused with laughs. He has those, too. He’s a pretty giggly guy. But laffs are something else entirely. He’ll be in the backseat of the car, minding his own business, and Colleen and I will be up front, chatting. Inevitably, someone will say something funny and we’ll both start laughing. About 5 seconds later, as if on a satellite delay, we’ll hear Declan yucking it up in the back seat. But it’s not a real laugh. It’s an I-really-want-to-be-in-on-the-joke laugh. A laff. Isn’t that cute? He’s learning how to socialize i.e. humor people that you really think are nuts.

Everyone THINKS their child is special, but with all the werds and laffs in our house, we KNOW it. I mean, just look at this face.

Wait, what? You can’t see it because he poured that bowl of peas all over himself? Oh, never mind.