I first published this post more than four years ago, when I began Wuppenif. Back then, I had only two readers at most, so it barely saw the light of day. It’s a special post to me, because I really love the exchange in it between my youngest son and me, but also because it still very aptly describes why I started this blog and why it came to be called Wuppenif. Youngest son is now eleven and better known to many readers here as Petkid. He is still partial to using ‘wuppenif’ or ‘wuppen’ in conversation.
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?
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.