Impossible things before breakfast

Lewis Carroll gave us a wonderful idea in his oft-quoted line from Alice in Wonderland: “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”, and it’s something I’d like to do more of. Our six-year old is certainly a dab hand at it, like most children are.

Just this morning on our walk to school he asked me whether it was possible for humans, with all of their intelligence and firepower, to demolish the sun. I said I didn’t think that humans were up to the task, but the truth is, he made me think. We’ve proved ourselves to be capable of the highest highs and the lowest lows, so why shouldn’t we be able to bring down the sun if we choose? We’ve been proving lately that we can bring down our own planet after all.

On the way to bed this evening, as he passed the fish tank in the hall outside his bedroom, he said what sounded like “Are sheep benevident?”

I asked him: “Do you mean are sheep benevolent?”

“What does that mean?” he asked.

“Benevolent means good and kind”, I said. “A person can be benevolent or act in a benevolent way.”

“Actually,” he said “people are kind because they keep sheep from getting too hot.”

“Because they would never be shorn otherwise?” I asked.

“Right. And then they get to be warm in the winter while their wool grows back and then we have more wool next year.”

“It’s kind of a perfect arrangement, isn’t it” I offered.

And then we were back onto that tricky word again. “But I mean benevident. Ben-ev-i-dent.”

“I thought you were mispronouncing benevolent. Do you have another word in mind?” I asked.

“Yes, ben-ev-i-dent” [for the slow mother to understand].

“Why don’t we look it up in the dictionary tomorrow” I suggested.

“Or on the computer,” he said “they should both have definitions.”


When this same youngest son was about three, he graduated from “Why?” to “Wuppenif?” which is a short-hand version of “What would happen if?” At nearly seven, wuppenif is still a big part of his conversational vocabulary, and I’m pleased that it hasn’t disappeared. In fact, it has been shortened further to just “wuppen”.  It has a certain something that the words in full just don’t possess. It’s a concept in its own right somehow.

The domain name for this blog includes “wuppenif” in it as it seemed oddly appropriate for this next stage. “Car free with kids” worked really well for the past year, but it was never big enough in scope for me. I’ve been wanting to branch out and explore more ideas and ask more wuppenifs of my own, and that’s what this new space is meant to be about. Our move to the country is the underlying motivation for the change, but there’s a lot more to it than that. More soon…

2 thoughts on “Impossible things before breakfast

  1. Wuppenif! I love it! Our little one seems to also enjoy inventing words as she comes to grips with the whole idea of language. Our favourite one is her own invention based on ‘bonkers’ a common label for our ecccentric cat’s behaviour – it came out one day as ‘butsies’ (rhymes with ‘foot-sies’). It’s stuck and has found it’s way into her parents’ daily usage.

    Looking forward to these new adventures – wuppenif?

    1. It’s something that comes to naturally to children, isn’t it. We become so lax and boring with language as we age, and children are a wonderful reminder to hang onto playing with words. His latest favourite made-up word is millifleck, as in something that is incredibly tiny.

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