Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Got Exigence?

This evening Jack said a new word. Actually it was a phrase. And it was quite wonderfully intelligible and situation-specific.

We were a loaded van returning from the football chalk talk, and when we turned right toward home, instead of left (toward French fries),  Jack started bellowing.

It got a little raucous. Henry had to switch places with his pal to sit next to Jack and thwart the angry flailing.

When Henry "shushed" Jack, Jack responded with a clear, "Shut up."

We all dissolved into laughter and then congratulatory comments directed at our surprise talker.

Parents don't typically applaud the first usage of this particular phrase, but it was so exciting to hear Jack use new words, and to use them appropriately. Well, as "appropriate" as the words shut up can be.

In graduate school, my thesis advisor Keith Grant-Davie was a British ex-pat who thrilled in masterful uses of written and spoken language. His famous refrain about any paper or idea was this question: does it contain exigence?

His point was that without a tangible sense of current and vital relevance, any idea we floated was dead in the water. Got Exigence? he cheekily commented on our paper drafts. In other words, whatever you're saying had better matter to the larger discussion of the topic, particularly at this moment in time.

Tonight when he debuted his first verbal shut up, Jacky nailed Keith Grant-Davie's number one requirement for self-expression. Did it fulfill the exigency requisite? Indeed, it did.

I wanted to roll down my window and shout joyously to the world, "My son just told his brother to shut up!"

But it would have lacked exigence for any random cyclists or pedestrians.


  1. Wonderful! What a difference perspective can make. Good job, Jack!

  2. Hah! I love that! You're so smart, Jack!

  3. That is so great! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hilarious. I think if I was a cyclist and a mom in a minivan rolled down her window to tell me that it would make for a good dinnertime story.

  5. High fives to Jack and to you for your respective vocabulary choices. spot on!

  6. Shut up!?!? That seriously rocks! Jack is my new hero! (p.s. when we were in Park City with the extended family...someone came up to me and told me that Sam called him a "moron"!! I laughed for a long time after that!!!)

  7. That is so funny, and exciting. I hope Henry was just as happy as the rest of the family :)