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Monday, March 21, 2011

Passive Observation

He cuts paper now. If you had any idea how many times he's asked for
and been denied the use of scissors, you'd know it's a pretty big deal.
There are milestones of development only a parent notices. Or cares about. Sleeping through the night, first words, learning to walk, potty training—these are things a parent's friends and family members express genuine joy about when the kid finally achieves success (or frustration when the process isn't going so well). I get more excited about less obvious stuff.

Like syntax and grammar.

Yesterday, Colin pretty stubbornly demanded that he watch a Veggie Tales movie in the van. On the way to church. As we left church. Maybe during church. The answer was always No. But he persisted in his pleas for  Lord of the Beans. Even the prospect of getting Dunkin' Donuts didn't help.

He said, "I don't want donuts to be eaten. I want movies to be watcheded."

The dude likes to add an extra -ed to the ends of words, but I was actually pretty impressed with his unorthodox use of the passive voice. I've never heard him use that phrasing before, and it gave a completely different feel to his demands. He wasn't asking just for himself. It was as though, for the sake of the state of the universe, he wanted things to be a certain way. He wanted to live in a world where movies get watched and donuts go undisturbed.

Maybe I'm embellishing his verbal intentions just a bit, but he's the one who said it. There had to be a reason. That's my best guess.

But this isn't the kind of thing anybody else cares about. I mean, it's not going in his baby book. It's going on this blog, but I hardly think it will cause anyone to say, "When did our kids start using the passive voice?" I doubt with all my spirit this will make anyone feel jealous (and any milestone worth two bits will stoke the green flames of envy in other parents).

It's just something I noticed because I'm Colin's dad. And because I'm a dork.


  1. Not a dork, just a dad. A good dad. :)


  2. Adam, what? Not-baby-book-worthy event? The boy used the passive voice correctly, and not only that: he used it as part of the Infinitive Construction, making this Nominative+Infinitive phrase the direct object in a sentence! In spite of your feeble attempts to downplay this accomplishment, this is awesome! :)
    P.S. The only option I could choose is "anonymous," but you know who I am.

  3. Oh, Elena. You're so anonymous. (And by anonymous, I mean awesome.)

  4. Ok, yeah, it's me. I liked your explanation for the use of the passive voice, over the obvious--and preferred by the textbooks--active voice. It's interesting how Colin, unencumbered by grammar rules and passionate to have his message come across, was able to boldly go where Strunk and White dissuade us from going. Writers, take notice!
    This is fun, Mr. Adam, almost like the so-called office.


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