BY T.F. STERN
The reason I’m writing today has to do with the home schooling of my granddaughter; she’s in the first grade. One of the books on her ‘required reading list’ has the title, Pinkalicious, and is clearly marked for beginning readers Level 1.
I was in the office when my daughter in law came over and asked, “Dad, how do you say this word and what does it mean?” I took the book from her, looking at the word she was pointing to, ‘fumfy’. I’d never seen that word before so, being at my laptop; I did a quick search for ‘fumfy’ to learn its meaning.
Apparently it’s a recently ‘made up’ word that’s found in the Urban Dictionary; that should tell you something. But why is such a word being used in a book to teach first grade children how to read and understand our English language?
I’d met some people who were frumpy, some who were grumpy; but, looking at the word ‘fumfy’ didn’t give me a clue as to its actual meaning.
I should be grateful for the internet’s ability to answer interesting useless or nearly useless information at the speed of thought, and I am, really.
Here you go; the Urban Dictionary defines… Fumfy: a combination of fluffy, puffy and comfy. As Church Lady from the old SNL show would inject, “Well, isn’t that special.”
Getting back to my original concern, if neither I nor my grown daughter in law knew this word, then what the heck was it doing in a book where young children are being taught the use of the English Language. It seems like ‘fumfy’ might qualify as a slang term rather than legitimate vocabulary in use or even accepted as everyday English.
There are some who would argue that the writings of Dr. Seuss violate the kind of logic I’m pointing out. There’s an article by Ben Frankeberger which explains quite a bit about Theodor Seuss Geisel…
“The man better known as Dr. Seuss used sleight of hand to make readers believe his seemingly silly rhymes were just that. But the good doctor’s prose, be it concerning plates of eggs or mustachioed tree-people, was deceptive. His casual couplets and nonsense words serve as a linguistic boot camp for kids.”
The second paragraph of that article answered most of my questions as to why such odd language and words in a children’s book were appropriate. According to Professor LouAnn Gerken, Ph.D…
“Rhythm is a vital tool for babies to understand when phrases end and begin – their first step in learning language. After they get a handle on that, rhythm helps infants develop a motor pattern. As springy, heavily rhythmic prose is one of the hallmarks of Dr. Seuss’ works, the good doctor presents a crash course in early linguistics.”
Okay, I get that; but how can my granddaughter’s reading material contain a one word response, ‘fumfy’, a word that is neither easy to say nor does it rhyme with anything around it; how can this be justified?
I can only hope that when these kids go back to having classes at school, learning classical music to enrich their lives, the list doesn’t have artists like 50 Cents teaching them Rap.
“The Rap Game,
Hip hop 101,
The hardest 9 ta 5 you will ever have,
you can’t learn this sh** in no history book,
you ready to rap mother****er,
you ready to sell your soul,
I’m old school and simply miss Jack and Jill going up that hill to fetch a pail of water.
Self-Educated American, Senior Editor, T.F. Stern is both a retired City of Houston police officer and, most recently, a retired self-employed locksmith (after serving that industry for 40 plus years). He is also a gifted political and social commentator. His popular and insightful blog, T.F. Sterns Rantings, has been up and at it since January of 2005.