Someone suggested recently that Tolliver's speech pattern sounds like some combination of southern Ohio and formal English, his own brand of sophisticated drawl.

Some of his words are clipped, like he's holding his breath, like there's a law against using his whole lung capacity to move air across his vocal cords.  When he's not particularly interested in doing something right away, say sitting on the potty or chewing a vitamin or brushing his teeth, he says I want to try later, the words precise and staccato.
Other words are lengthened, they roll back and forth along his tongue before he lets them out.  For example, and sounds like aaa-und.  The “a” gets away from him and the middle stretches into three syllables.
And some words combine both the aristocratic quickness and the lazy lilt, like the way he says pay-ants, slow on the first syllable, swallowing the second.
He talks about pants more than he wears them.
I'm actually finding it hard to describe how he talks.  But it's easy to describe Tolliver as a talker.
I mean, all the time.  His voice is delightful, most of the time, and exhausting on occasion.

When he sits down on the patio or settles on a front porch chair, he says I love being outside.
I may have said it once in the spring, but he says it every time, like an invitation for dialogue.

When he wakes up in the afternoon, he invariably announces I had a great nap! and then asks What have you been doing?  And he means it, not with a what-did-I-miss worry, but with a curious sincerity.

I hadn't really noticed Tolliver's tendency to cultivate small talk until one of his aunts was retelling a story about being out to dinner with him.  After Tollie explained that he was going to order a big plate of rice and beans, he went around the table asking what everyone else was going to have, and following up with genuine interest: Oh, that sounds delicious.

His words have heralded him into a bigger universe, he uses them to play and fantasize, to please and infuriate. His conversation skills have created a way for him to be involved more with his world, to seek answers to his own unending questions.  It seems like he's noticing his thoughts as thoughts for the first time.  But what if a bay-er gets into our house? he asks, clearly concerned.  Bears can't get in our house, I tell him, not lying.
He is, though, always the one who decides whether there will be a conversation, and he seems to relish the power he must feel when he plays shy or resists a reply.  His competency with language has fueled a strong drive for separateness from us, a chance for him to tell us what he likes and DOES NOT LIKE.
There are sounds Tollie still works very hard to make.  Our favorite currently is "ng," like in orange, that ends up muffled with a ff-sh noise.  And the word "bridge" for example, takes tremendous focus and effort.  Words like that and like garage and spinach he whispers with a slight sag of the shoulders, a little stagger in his voice: I can't talk right, he frets.
And then he's way off on things like sook sacks (fruit snacks) but seems not to notice or to care.
And also "construction."  He asks to wear his yellow digger shirt EVERY DAY, and he talks a lot about dump trucks and construction sites...  He gets the middle a little messed up though and uses some of the very same sounds he used to use when he said motorcycle.

1 comment:

rht said...

Yesterday morning, Tollie and I sat in the back of Grandpa's "pickle truck," watching the bumblebees collect pollen, flying in and out of the big squash blossoms in our garden. I explained that bees use pollen to make honey. (Please excuse the inexact science.) I said I liked honey and Tollie asked to taste some. So I fetched a bottle and spoon. After tasting several drops, Tollie exclaimed, with his signature smile and all his heart, "I like honey too! THANK YOU, BUMBLEBEES!"