Molly Fisk: Naming Your Teeth

A three-year-old I know just explained to his mom that he needed an umbrella because it was hot in the yard and “there isn’t a shade structure.” Coffee almost flew out my nose when she told me this, I was laughing so hard. The wonders of language and watching people learn it make me incredibly happy. Also, the way children sponge up whatever they hear around them. And how inventive and fun they can be before they’ve picked up most of the rules. Plus, when did we come to this goofy stage of modern life where we adults invent generic technical terms like “shade structure?” Good grief. Though if he’d said “there isn’t a pergola” I probably would have fainted.

One of the vast irritations about getting older is discovering that the stupid clichés we’ve been hearing all our lives are actually true. Kids do say the darnedest things and youth is wasted on the young. It’s so annoying. Maybe not as annoying as being dead and unable to have an opinion, but still, very annoying.

Just as I liked watching my friends have kids, now I like seeing them with their grandchildren. They are totally besotted, which is another true cliché, and it’s a fact that skipping the middle generation eases a lot of friction. One of my friends has taught her grandson to identify birds by their calls. Another gives her’s home-made ice cream lessons. I, as the grandparents’ friend and a writer, am often in charge of language: I show kids how to look up the roots of words and throw in a grammar rule or two while I’m at it. I teach them satisfying new swear words like “flummox” and “gewurtztraminer.” And they clue me in on strange modern inventions, such as “fleek.”

The business about the shade structure is excellent, but in honor of two additional all-too-accurate clichés: “out of the mouths of babes,” and “the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” my favorite story comes from the brother of one of my godsons.  Nicholas is kind of my godson, too, by proxy, but a few years younger. One day I was walking him down the driveway to the car — I think he was about five. At the time I didn’t realize that some kids don’t develop a sense of humor right away, it can take a few years for that part of their brain to catch up. Just to make conversation, thinking a godmother ought to make some sort of an effort, but feeling a little awkward and therefore trying to be amusing, I asked Nick if he’d named all his teeth yet.

He turned his head to look up at me with the clearest expression in his eyes — an  equal blend of surprise, disbelief, scorn, and pity — and said, forcefully, enunciating every syllable in case my hearing was as bad as my comprehension:

All of my teeth are named Nicholas!”

Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • jan August 14, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    Oh God! Hilarious.
    I love you Molly.

  • Kate Campbell August 13, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    Charming essays lately, Molly, feels like you’ve learned to tango with words, a red rose set firmly between your teeth. My grandson, after his dinner plate was jokingly hidden by grandpa for the umpteenth time, said to him. “Give me my dinner. I’m only going to give you two more chances.”

  • Julia August 12, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Our dentist used to count my daughter’s teeth to look at them when she was about three–as Count McCount, complete with Dracula accent.

    • Molly Fisk August 12, 2017 at 7:41 pm

      love it! 😉

  • hillsmom August 12, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Good one Molly. To digress, as usual, the morning concert from the Thrushes has stopped, and the evening one, too. I guess they have left for southern climes. Luckily, the Bluebirds are still around, and may stay all winter.
    Remember, you can never see enough Bluebirds…

    • Molly Fisk August 12, 2017 at 7:43 pm


  • L gibbons August 12, 2017 at 11:06 am

    That is the nicest sweetest story. Gewürztraminer might come in handy later in life

    • Susanna Gaertner August 12, 2017 at 2:47 pm

      …I was just thinking the same about the Gewürztraminer….Gewürz means spice in German and it’s one of my favorite varietals (heritage factor?)…..
      Molly, as always, a welcome shot of warmth and wonder….

      • Molly Fisk August 12, 2017 at 7:43 pm

        Thank you! Gewürztraminer is a very good word for expressing frustration, I recommend it now matter how old you are. 😉