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This morning I asked my grandson, LeoDaniel SoliRain (five years old), what he wants Santa Claus to bring him tonight.  Without hesitation, he replied, "faidaman".  My son Thomas Krishna, his wife Lacey Michelle, his daughter Samira Lea (LD's seven year old sister), and especially I were all perplexed.

I asked LD what a "faidaman" is.  He repeated emphatically and clearly, "faidaman!"  The four of us started to speculate:  fighter man?  fireman?

LD was getting frustrated, so in a burst of zoological erudition, he explained with great precision, "it's got eight legs and spins webs".

Whereupon light bulbs went off in our heads.  (Sorry for the mixed-up metaphor, but people actually say that.)


  1. DCBob said,

    December 24, 2016 @ 12:46 pm

    At least he wasn't asking for vitamins …

  2. Matt McIrvin said,

    December 24, 2016 @ 2:10 pm

    Funny, I got it on my first guess.

    Faidaman, faidaman, does whatever a faida can…

  3. Mark P said,

    December 24, 2016 @ 2:28 pm

    Once I realized I was mispronouncing the word (rhyming "faid" with "paid" I got it immediately.

  4. Lazar said,

    December 24, 2016 @ 2:35 pm

    A cousin of mine, when they were a toddler, used to pronounce "squirrel" as "ferrol". [s] and [w] make [f], natch.

  5. Victor Mair said,

    December 24, 2016 @ 5:40 pm

    A Chinese friend of mine pronounced "squirrel" as "iskweeril".

  6. Jerry Friedman said,

    December 25, 2016 @ 10:22 am

    I have a theory that the word for "squirrel" is always hard for foreigners to pronounce. So far I have three examples: "squirrel", French "écureuil", and Spanish "ardilla". The last depends a lot on dialect, though. A lot of Anglos, including me, have trouble distinguishing between "ardilla" and "ardía" the way a Mexican does, but we might be able to do it the way an Argentinian does. I think.

  7. julie lee said,

    December 25, 2016 @ 11:38 am

    A Jewish colleague who was married to a Norwegian woman told me his three-year-old daughter said one day: "We're Bikings. Daddy bikes, Mommy bikes. I bike."

  8. julie lee said,

    December 25, 2016 @ 1:31 pm

    Oops, Actually the three-year-old said: "We're Vikings. Daddy vikes, Mommy vikes, I vike."

  9. poftim said,

    December 25, 2016 @ 2:46 pm

    "Veveriță", the Romanian word for squirrel, isn't exactly a breeze either.

  10. D-AW said,

    December 25, 2016 @ 5:49 pm

    My daughter says "cuddy" (for "écureuil" ). One of her first and most frequent words, she has retained it even though she's now able to pronounce it properly in English and French.

  11. Victor Mair said,

    December 25, 2016 @ 6:31 pm

    I'm not on Facebook, so I can't find out more about Faida Man Imad.

  12. Arthur Baker said,

    December 26, 2016 @ 1:21 am

    lazar, it's not just [s] and [w] making [f], that would be something like swirrel. It's [s] and [k] and [w] making [f].

  13. poftim said,

    December 26, 2016 @ 2:29 am

    Eichhörnchen. I think you're right Jerry.

  14. BZ said,

    December 27, 2016 @ 12:54 pm

    The Russian for squirrel is something like "bielka". Once you get past the soft vowel (which I transcribed as "ie"), which is commonplace in Russian, it's about as easy to pronounce as anything you might encounter.

  15. Daniel said,

    December 27, 2016 @ 3:03 pm

    My daughter used to pronounce "sweeping" as "fweeping".

  16. cliff arroyo said,

    December 27, 2016 @ 4:32 pm

    Polish squirrel is wiewiórka
    (w like English v, both i's mostly palatalize the previous consonant and ó is like spanish u)

    Not super easy but not even in the top 50 % of Polish words that are hard for foreigners, maybe not top 70 or 80 per cent….

  17. Wonks Anonymous said,

    December 29, 2016 @ 2:58 pm

    There was a video going around a few years ago showing the difficulty non-English speakers (primarily German, as I recall) have in pronouncing squirrel. I could have sworn I found it through Language Log, but a search turned up nothing.

  18. Martha said,

    December 29, 2016 @ 5:14 pm

    This reminds me of when my 3yo asked me to help her find her "moan-gah." We were utterly confused until she told us it was silver and rectangle and makes music, aka "harmonica."

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