There's nothing wrong with a one-word vocabulary. Our toddler, Annie, gets by quite nicely with the word "umm."
Usually "umm" means "yes." And, when you only have a single word in your arsenal, you use it to answer every question. You've heard of "yes men"? Annie is an "umm girl."
If you're a lawyer and need an expert witness, give me a call. Annie would make a great one, regardless of the topic.
Prosecutor: "Is it correct that you're an expert in the field of ballistics?"
Prosecutor: "Is this the gun used in the robbery?"
Prosecutor: "Are you 100 percent sure?"
Unfortunately, Annie doesn't hold up under cross-examination.
Defense attorney: "Are you a water buffalo?"
Defense attorney: "Have you ever lived on Mars?"
Defense attorney: "Is Elvis still alive?"
Annie has become more adept at using "umm" to mean different things. For example, if she snaps her teeth together while umming, "umm" means "Yum!"
This simple trick allows her to communicate as well as a professional food critic. As we roll through town in our mini-van, Annie comments on the delicacies offered at each restaurant we pass: Krispy Kreme Donuts gets four umms for its heavy use of sugar and free hats. Wendy's gets three for its Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. As we drive past the local garden center, Annie belts out a rare five-umm salute.
"They give away free popcorn," my wife explains. "She wants you to stop."
I sigh with relief. I was afraid Annie was eating mulch again.
It's not hard to imagine Annie speaking in full sentences. My 7-year-old daughter went straight from "goo" to six-hour monologues. Now I have to brace myself before asking, "What did you do at school today?"
"I brought in the bird I made out of a toilet paper tube and Olivia said it was great but Karen liked Elizabeth's bird better than mine and Bobby made a really disgusting noise and I told him it was disgusting but he just laughed and I was the only girl wearing a jumper today but I didn't mind because I love jumpers why do they call them jumpers, anyway? Oh, yeah, Jane was wearing a jumper, so I wasn't the only girl wearing one, there were two of us, but her jumper was...."
Eventually, oxygen masks drop from the overhead compartments because all the air has been sucked out of the room.
My 5-year-old boy, on the other hand, makes a Vermont farmer sound verbose.
"What'd you do at school today?" I ask.
"Work," he says.
Then, one day, Annie utters the sound I'd been longing to hear "da." "Da" quickly multiplies into "da-da." I'm elated.
"Do you love Da-Da?" I ask.
"Umm," she says. And I'm sure she means "yes" because I'm not even holding any popcorn.