My Early Elocution Exercise

Kunk Fu Zoby Kung Fu Zu3/2/15
Like many other three year olds, I had trouble pronouncing some of the words I commonly used. One such word sticks in my mind for reasons which will become apparent. That word was “sandwich,” which I pronounced as something between “sanfitch and samfitch.”

Three year olds are generally cute, and precocious three olds are even cuter, particularly when they come up with new ways of saying common words.  Thus nobody corrected my “samfitch” and perhaps just as importantly; even had I realized that my pronunciation of sandwich was somewhat amiss, there was little incentive to change it. Being cute and fawned on is pleasant.

One morning I happened to be hungry and thought a sandwich would be just the thing to remedy the situation. I went looking for my mother, the fount of all food, intending to finagle my way into an early snack. Unfortunately, when I found her, she was sitting in the living room, speaking to a neighbor. She said she was busy and couldn’t make my sandwich.  But she did call my older brother into the room and asked him to take me to the kitchen and make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Off he went toward the kitchen with me in tow. As we trotted through the kitchen door, my brother closed it behind us. I found this odd as the door was generally left open.

I stood to my brother’s right side at the end of the kitchen counter, watching him gather the necessary ingredients to assemble my meal. Once he started to spread the peanut butter a funny look came over his face.  He shot me a side-ways glance. I found this somewhat disturbing.

Out of nowhere, he asked me, “How do you say it?”

Noting a distinct hostility in his tone, I shrank back slightly and said, “Say what?”

“Sandwich” he shot back. “How do you say it?”

“Uh, samfitch?” I whispered.

He turned to me and said, “I’m going to count to three, and if you don’t say “SANDWICH” by then, I’m going to punch you.”

The peril of my situation hit home. I was alone in the kitchen with someone six years older and much stronger than I.  Mommy, my protector, was cut off from me by that deviously closed door. Worse still, there was some woman up front and mommy would not be happy to have a ruckus take place while that guest was having coffee in the living room.

“One!” rang out my brother’ voice.

“Samfitch,” again, came my hesitant reply.

My brother’s face grew more menacing as he spat out “two” somewhat more loudly than before.

“Sanfitch,” said I in a pleading tone.

“Three,” boomed my brother towering above me, one hand raised ready to strike and a sandwich in the other.

I was trapped, seconds from destruction. My heart was pounding, my chest was heaving. I was past asking for pity, I had arrived at panic.

My brother slowly drew back his hand emphasizing the lethal power with which I was about to be obliterated.

Seeing my approaching annihilation, I shouted out in desperation, “Sandwich, sandwich.”

Suddenly, a smile came over my brother’s face. He lowered his fist and gave me the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Patting me on the head he said “see?” and left the room.

Shaken by my recent experience, I remained in the kitchen pondering the ways of those older and larger than myself.

Looking back I should say that, while the experience was somewhat traumatic, I have never mispronounced the word sandwich since that day almost sixty years ago. Perhaps my brother could have taught Professor Henry Higgins a thing or two. • (1569 views)

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9 Responses to My Early Elocution Exercise

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I don’t recall anything from that age (or at least nothing I can place); my earliest vague memories come from our 2-year stay at Fort Leavenworth (I have no idea what my father was doing, though it may have been related to the fort’s use as a tactical training school). I was 5 when we left, so it’s possible that some of my memories may go back to the age of 3.

    I do recall words that I misunderstood, either because I didn’t hear them correctly of because I didn’t yet have the vocabulary. (I recall reading an account of Robin Hood that mentioned that he wanted Friar Tuck to carry him across the creek because he was wearing a coat of mail and didn’t want to get it wet. My image wasn’t quite what they intended, but it did make sense.)

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I don’t recall anything from that age

      It is interesting how the mind works. I would have bet you could recall things from a similar age.

      I can recall specific events which took place a few months before I turned three and a number of things which happened before I was 43 months old. I know this number to be correct as that was my age when we moved to Dallas.

      I like your image of Robin Hood, mailman.

  2. Rosalys says:

    I’m sitting here laughing myself silly! Older brothers are wonderful, aren’t they? That can be considered a sarcastic remark in regards to when we were kids; he was such an awful tease and would torment me because he loved to watch me lose my temper. But now we are all grown up and I mean wonderful in the most literal sense. I am so glad I still have my big brother!

    As an aside, the way that word is pronounced in many parts of Rhode Island is “sang-gwidge,” and that by grown ups.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      As an aside, the way that word is pronounced in many parts of Rhode Island is “sang-gwidge,” and that by grown ups.

      And to think the trauma I suffered for “received pronunciation”.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    My older brother’s daughter when she was a toddler called her blanket her “bye.” To this day when amongst just us brothers, we will say “Hand me that bye” instead of towel. Or we may say “paper bye” for paper towel. No wonder etymology is often so sketchy.

    Your older brother doesn’t sound like a stone’s throw away from my own. The job of the older brother is, first and foremost, to mildly torture the younger brother. It’s just how nature has arranged these things.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Yes, I can see the point, though it can be made worse if, for example, the older brother is anal-retentive and the younger brother is something of a slob. There’s a reason I never refer to my brother by name, which anyone familiar with a particular scene from Silence of the Lambs (both the book and the movie have it) will understand.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I can definitely relate to what Rosalys is saying. I wouldn’t want to do without an older brother now that I am an adult. But it wasn’t always a picnic when we were growing up.

        There does seem to be some natural instinct between brothers, particularly for the older one to dominate. I know we’re just talking peanut butter sandwiches. But Shakespearean (and other) drama is full of cases of fratricide. We may too quickly forget the bestial world hovering just outside.

        Most of this stuff never elevates to a Shakespearean tragedy. Brothers tend to work things out. Pecking orders are established and older brothers eventually loosen up. I’m a middle brother, so I’ve had it from both ends.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          But Shakespearean (and other) drama is full of cases of fratricide. We may too quickly forget the bestial world hovering just outside.

          There is a reason Shakespeare wrote those stories. It is only logical that, on average, people have the greatest passions for those near them. One’s greatest enemy is generally not some guy living a thousand miles away. It is the guy within your reach and too often encroaching on your space, i.e. the same space you both want.

          The Cold War and the present distant rivalries are pretty much anomalies in history.

          Think Cain and Abel, Romulus and Remus. The Capulets and Montagues. Crips and Bloods. England and France. Prussia and everyone around it.

    • Tom Riehl TRiehl says:

      Agree! I have two older brothers, who are each treasures, but their specialty was humiliating me in a kind way. Win-win.

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