Gobbling up goshness

Click on this link for a sweet piece from acclaimed poet and author Cate Kennedy on the oddities and inconsistencies of language through the eyes of a child.

Cate’s point is well made. By stiffly following convention we stifle creativity. We miss out on unexpected and fresh combinations of words-ideas-sounds-images that have the power of new. I’ve never forgotten a poem from a fellow second year creative writing student (way back when) who wrote of the “goshness” of a kitten exploring its world. It’s not a word you’ll find in a dictionary but we all know what it means.

Delivering goshness is one reason I admire Markus Zusak’s work so much. It’s why I will sit through a car review from Jeremy Clarkson knowing I’ll never drive the vehicle he describes but I can still savour the language he employs to explain his motoring experience.

A few years back John Marsden wrote an article arguing that we shouldn’t tell children that cows moo, ducks quack and so on. Why? Because we might be implanting conventions when a child might find its own altogether better way to depict those sounds. A new way of describing something isn’t a wrong way.

As Cate says, it’s a parenting conundrum. We want to equip our children for the world they live in. But sometimes it’s better if they colour outside the lines.

9 thoughts on “Gobbling up goshness”

  1. Thank you Tim for sharing this link. I adored this article.

    When Indi was small she had her own words for everything. My favourite was washfacer. Instead of face-washer of course.

    When I corrected her the first and only time, she asked “Who said it has to be called that?”
    I replied, “Well…everyone munchkin, that is what its called in the dictionary.”
    Her response “I dont care who dictionary is, he’s not my mum or my dad or my friend and he’s not the boss of me. Washfacer is better!”


  2. Will never forget Cam at about 4 telling me very seriously “Mum, an echo is really the shadow of your voice.”

  3. Lol, you are absolutely spot on! Our intention was Indi as in Indiana…. however it rapidly became Indi as in indi-pendent!

    Kylie, I LOVE that! It is beautiful 🙂

  4. Indi-fatigable?

    Thanks Tye. My daughter (now 7) is still in love with words and often gives me story ideas “I don’t mind you using”. Unfortunately they’re all about young girls who do ballet and gymnastics and own ponies (in her dreams) but I do snatch the odd phrase and observation from her!

  5. Tim, the URL for Cate’s article via Varuna has changed, but it’s so worth repeating that I did a search for it and found it here as a recorded talk from the Melbourne Writers Festival. : http://www.abc.net.au/tv/bigideas/stories/2010/09/28/3021333.htm. It was published 28 September 2010 by the ABC’s excellent ‘Big Issues’ program as ‘Cate Kennedy on Being Grammatically Incorrect’.
    It’s available as a radio or tv podcast.

    Yes, paradoxically,becoming a consciously pattern-making human seems to separates us from our youthful creativity. The child in us wants to ‘grow up’ and conform, be correct and acceptable to the law abiding majority which is always too ready to correct us. Some rules are like old maps, and it can take a lifetime to be wise and brave enough to follow our children out to where be dragons, once upon a time.

  6. Many thanks for this, Christine. I have updated the link. And it did feel like time-travel, re-reading a long past-post and the comments on it. Best wishes, T

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