Writer’s Block: ‘But no one had a dog, Mom’

Language has always fascinated me.

Kelly Johnson
Kelly Johnson

I’m a writer. I enjoy playing with words.

I like reading other’s work to see how they use language to get their message across.

I remember as a middle schooler writing a poem for a class assignment.

I spent hours working on it, playing with rhythm and rhyme, making sure the end product was just so.

I was rewarded with an unexpected honor for my efforts, further fueling my love of language.

Throughout my educational career I had a couple of teachers that spent considerable time focusing on grammar.

Boring to some, but a delight to a student eager to learn more about the language and how it works.

These and other experiences helped fuel my desire to do what I am today.

But for me, the love of language does not stop when I leave the office.

It’s something that continues on at home, especially as I interact with my children.

We read lots of books and with February being I Love to Read month, we’ve done even more reading in recent months.

All that reading resulted in us reading virtually every book in our children’s collection.

There are all types of books in there, from their more favored chapter books to favorites from when they were preschool age and younger.

Some of those books include some of our own handiwork.

No, the kids haven’t taken their markers to them.

Rather, I have taken a pen to them and corrected an obvious grammatical error or changed the word “stupid” to silly or something similar.

The grammatical changes are the result of a typographical error that was missed in the publisher’s proof reading process.

Replacing “stupid” comes at the urging of our kids, who after being told that “stupid” is not a nice word, suggested we should change it because it’s not a nice word.

With all this reading, there is also some the discussion of words and language.

As my daughter’s got older, she’s increasing her vocabulary and questioning why the English language has certain words in them.

A common concern is why there are three ways to spell “to, two and too,” and how to tell the difference.

That discussion leads to others like “where” and “wear” and “there,” “their” and “they’re.” It’s endless fun – for me at least.

Our youngest is now in kindergarten and has begun reading on his own.

That has led to questions about phrases in our language.

Some books explain what the phrase means, like a couple of “Berenstain Bears” books that are in popular rotation at the Johnson house.

Last week, while home with him while he was sick, I was reminded that these phrases, while commonly known to adults, might need a little more explanation to those younger ears.

After waiting for an unusually long time at the local “quick clinic,” I called my husband and related to him that “everyone and their dog” was there.

After hanging up the phone, my son looked at me and said, “Mom, I didn’t see any dogs there. Where did you see the dogs? Nobody had a dog there.”

Ah, the beauty of language.

The following day, while trying to keep the cat off the table for the umpteenth time, I told him that he would lose some of his nine lives if he jumped up there again.

Young ears heard and questioned: “Doesn’t Al only have one life? If he dies, does he still have more lives to spend with us?”

Again the wonder of our language.

It’s an interesting beast, especially when paired with a young, inquisitive mind.