Fais dodo !
fay do-DO! Click below to hear this pronounced.
Go to sleepy-bye/beddy-bye! Nighty-night!
This is how you get your tiny one to close her eyes!
Baby talk everywhere seems to be characterized by doubling up on syllables, from mama and papa to wawa (water) and nana and other inventions. And when we’re not doubling up syllables, we are adding diminutive endings to the nouns. Our son and daughter-in-law neither condone nor use baby talk with their children, yet even our two-year-old Henry wants his “shoesies” on his feet. Did we, his grandparents, inadvertently teach him that? We’ll never know.
Is the goal simplicity or cuteness? Are we as parents and other caretakers of little ones repeating the inventions of the infant, or do we invent these forms ourselves in an effort to reach our children at their own level? Whatever the reason, French is rich in such words: dodo, from dormir (to sleep), is one.
Interestingly, what began as a verb (dors, a command meaning sleep!) becomes a noun in baby talk, with the addition of the verb faire, to make or do. So the English go to sleep, in French, is more like do some sleeping: Fais dodo.
And, though faire is an irregular verb, perhaps this is an unconscious effort on the part of parents to simplify language for the littlest ones, by using the same words over and over. A baby’s life, after all, consists of doing the same few things over and over. Not much variety, in those early days!
More on this tomorrow. Stay tuned!