Toddler-to-English Dictionary

I’ve never considered myself fluent in any other language than English. In college, studying voice, I learned to translate and pronounce Italian, Latin, French and German. I can carry on an elementary conversation in Spanish, with phrases such as:

“Donde esta el bano?” (Where is the bathroom?)
“Tu bebe es muy linda!” (You’re baby is very pretty!)
“Quiero el numero vente y dos con refritos, y no arroz, por favor.” (I would like number 23 with beans, and no rice, please.)
And no, I did not look these up before posting today!

Just recently, I realized I am fluent in a foreign language. I can speak perfect Toddler-ese! My toddler, I call her Litttle Pea, after the Princess and the Pea, completely understands everything she says, while no one else has a clue. So, I find myself translating often. Here are a few entries in my Toddler-to-English Dictionary.

bubby: (n.) Baby, poopy, boobies, bra, or pacifier. You must recite the list back to her until you get a nod. (Don’t ask me why she would want a bra, but one time I found her waddling around with one around her neck like a scarf.)

wah wah: (n.) Water, juice, milk, or any other liquid suitable for drinking. Actually this also applies to moldy juice or congealed milk left in the car for any number of days.

nana: (n.) Banana, crackers, pinto beans, yogurt, or any other type of food. Banana was the first “food” word she said, so now she thinks all food is “nana.” Reciting the list of plain-view foods is the only way to decipher this word.

nnnnoo!!: (adv.) no, used to express refusal, denial, disbelief, emphasis, or disagreement. She picked up on this one very quickly. Go figure! (And yes, I did have to look up the part of speech for “no.” Well, did you know it?)

huh me: (full sentence) hold me. Beware, if this request is not accommodated, it will be repeated at ever increasing volumes until satisfied.

duh doo: (sentence) thank you, love you, or maybe tattoo, I’m not really sure?

“Ah ba bubby de da wah-wah do dah nana” This passage is open to interpretation. Some common translations include:

“The baby wants some juice and a banana.”
“I threw your bra in the toilet water with some crackers.”
“I poopied in the bath water because you fed me too many pinto beans!”

As you can see, Toddler-ese is very subjective and takes years to master. I hope this has given you some enlightenment in the area of this dialect. You may just surprise your friends by understanding their toddler’s ramblings.

Buh-Bah! I mean, bye bye!

Originally posted at Real Life, 6/24/07


  1. Wow, your toddler speaks my toddler’s lanquage! After four children, I am pretty quick with the translations these days! Thanks for the post.

  2. Sarah,
    Great post. There is nothing like a good laugh!! I am so familiar with everything above. I love it when the really akward traslations happen in public. 🙂

  3. That is closer than any toddler translation I was ever able to do!

  4. Tiffany says:

    Then complicate it with the interchangeable nature of toddler verb tenses: you never know if they did it, are doing it, or plan to do it in the future! It definitely keeps us on our toes.

  5. Yes, Tiffany, and yesterday is any time in the past, tomorrow is sometime in the foreseeable future. We moms really are geniuses to figure it out!