Monday, April 25, 2005


Sometimes you just need a new word to describe something and there is no one word. Like, what is that word again, for someone who has a small vocabulary? [Just joking there, but we definitely need a word for that, and a word for the times when you need a new word for something.] Without that perfect word you have to improvise or give long, inelegant explanations. Sometimes you can borrow a word from another language, and sometimes you just make one up. The new word, sootsie (rhymes with footsie), has made life around our house much easier in the past week, so I thought I’d pass it along and see if anyone else benefits from its use.

My friend Robyn’s son, Max, age 4, made it up. She said when he is wriggling and writhing because he has to go to the bathroom, she’ll say, “Do you need to go to the bathroom?” and he’ll say, “No, Mom, I’m just sootsie.” And then he’ll go to the bathroom.

Now I know if Kadin is wriggling and writhing and I dare ask him, “Do you need to go to the bathroom?” he’ll deny it straight out and will then put off going to the bathroom for at least another two hours. I try to bite my tongue, but it is so hard to stay silent when you see an obvious need. When it gets to the point that it bugs me, it’s got to be bugging him. I’ve tried to reason with him, telling him it is not good to hold it, that it hurts. I’ve tried to tell him funny stories about how his pee is saying, “I want to come out, let me out!” But all to no avail. Four-year-olds don’t like to be told what to do and don’t like to be reminded that they aren’t all knowing rulers of the universe. They make you pay for that.

But now that we have this word, everything has changed. Now, I can say, “Are you feeling sootsie?” [The first couple of times I used it on myself, said “I’m feeling sootsie!” and did that distinctive sootsie dance. He was amused.] With “are you feeling sootsie?” there is no implied action, no “go to the bathroom” part. It is just acknowledging how he feels and how he is acting. “Hey!” he’ll say, giggling, “I’m sootsie!” and then he’ll run off to the bathroom. Giving it a neutral label was all we needed. Language is magic.


cda said...

I love it.

Anonymous said...

me too.
and can i add my favorite invented word: affineal?
Meaning, related by affection...

jeninco said...

Affineal, I love it! Definately a need for that one. I had a friend whose mother used a great term like that. She had a son and a daughter and neither had ever married, but both were in long-term relationships and had children with their partners. Frustrated by the lack of a term for her children's partners and the parents of her grandchildren, she called them "my son-in-love and my daughter-in-love."

robyn churchill rathweg said...

Jennny you have invented the spelling to a new word. Max (the word inventor) says he is sootsie when he thinks he MAY have to go potty, but then doesn't really have to go. Or when he DOES have to go and doesn't want to. He is very conscious of all the mysterious functions fo his abdominal area. His tummy hurts of he is hungry, full, has to pee or poop, or is uncomfortable. Maybe he needs a new word.

Anonymous said...

Laughing. I have heard the word "ootsie" used in this type situation; wiggling around,feeling unsettled, ootsie, and not just from kids. my father's nickname for me was Sootsie, not sure of spelling but pronounced to rhyme with footsie, thanks for that. I am thinking about using it for my grandma name and found this post via Google. Cool. :)