SpellTalk (n): A language that parents use to hide the most important parts of conversations from their kids. Unfortunately, kids eventually learn this language so that they can spy on their parents, so parents must find a new and original way to secretively communicate.

When do you use SpellTalk?

1. When you’re talking about something fun that is potentially in your child’s future and are not quite ready to answer five thousand six hundred and seventy five questions of “Is it time to go to the Zoo yet?!?!”.

Example of the use of SpellTalk in this capacity: “Ali is going to go visit G-R-A-M-A-M-M-A and P-O-P.”

2. When you want to hide your emotions.

Me: “I’m so D-E-P-R-E-S-S-E-D today.”

Chris: “It’s not like she knows what depressed means, dear.”

3. When you want to call each other names.

Chris: (Makes silly joke)

Me: (laughs), “You’re such an I-D-I-O-T.”

Chris: “Well, you’re a D-O-R-K-Y S-P-E-L-L-E-R.”

4. When you want to keep your chocolate all to yourself.

…because you know that you don’t ALWAYS want to share all of your sweets.

However, this can sometimes be more complex than you expect.

Chris: “I got us some more letter-after-O letter-after-O’s for after someone goes to bed!”


Me: “P?? You got some pee pee???”

(Thoughtful pause).

Chris: “Okay. I got some letter-after-L letter-after-L’s.”

Oooooh. M & M’s.

(That story was from our early days of spell talk. Thank goodness we’ve gotten more proficient with the language since then.)

Complications to SpellTalk:

  • Sometimes the items that you need to talk about are not cloakably spellable.

    Example: The fact that Ali’s best friend’s name is AJ. Not exactly easy to spell subtly.

    Soluction: When we talk about AJ in SpellTalk, we use a code term – her first name, A-U-D-R-E-Y.

    Because we’re smart like that.

  • When words have two meanings. Yesterday, the following SpellTalk conversation occurred when Chris and I were trying to decide where we could park our car to have a bike ride:

    Chris: “We could park at the P-A-R-K…”

  • Me: “You realize that you just said “park” AND spelled “park” in the same sentence?”

    Ali: so intently studying her breakfast that she never heard any of the mentions of the park.

    (which proves that sometimes spell talk isn’t as necessary as you think it is.)

  • It is hard to remember to use your second language of SpellTalk when something happens fast, like needing to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting a car. It takes a lot of practice to remember to say “Oh C-R-A-P!!!!”

  • You must become proficient at picking the CRUCIAL word(s) to convert to SpellTalk in any particular sentence. Chris finds this especially complicated at times, which results in some funny sentences such as:

    Chris: “I think we should go to the Zoo today after B-R-E-A-K-F-A-S-T!”

    Me: “Um, dear…I don’t think you needed to spell Breakfast.”

    Chris: “I know, but you know what I mean.”

What to do when your child learns SpellTalk:

I have no idea. The thought scares me to death. Learn Finnish or Swahili maybe?

26 thoughts on “Parenting and the Art of SpellTalk.

  1. This was hilarious! "PP" was my favorite one, I think.

    As the mother of a child who is quickly picking up on the spelltalk, we are learning how to read lips quite well.

  2. You think? she doesn't know depressed? Remember when she said she was going to start pooing in the toilet so you would not be stressed? Spelltalk is not going to last long.

  3. Pig Latin, m'dear. It works very well after they learn Spelltalk.

    The bit about peepee made me chuckle, but Chris spelling out breakfast owned me!! Too funny!

  4. Oh yes, it's been downhill since Joe learned to spell. We have to use covert descriptions now such as, "You know, the rat place with the Italian food" or "That place that projects moving images on to large screens."

  5. My parents used Pig Latin. And now I am eryvay roficientpay in the anguagelay. ;) It's hard to spell though! Good luck to you guys!

  6. We've never been there either, I was just using it as an example. I've heard it's shoulder to shoulder with people all the time. No thanks.

  7. Oh this cracks me up b/c we do all those things! Well, neither of us have a problem with spelling only the important words but my mom does. The other day she asked me if K could have some W-A-T-E-R. I said, "Uh mom, you can say water." :)

    I too am wondering what the heck we are going to do when she learns to spell!

    As for quick spelling, we have just replaced our old exclamations of crap, suck, etc. with child friendly ones. T's favorite is "bummer dude" and "aww, rats!" I tend to go with "oh, bother" as inspired by Whinne the Pooh. :)

  8. The M&M one is hilarious! PP! My hubby looked at me when like I was weird when I laughed out loud at that one. :)

  9. We do this all the time, but I am a terrible speller, so I always have to think about what I'm spelling to Ryan…makes for a L-O-N-G conversation :)
    I guess we should learn sign language when the kids learn how to spell!

  10. How funny!
    What we do is make up new words to name that thing-place-person you cannot name… of course my daughter eventually learns what we are talking about and it goes back to zero… you do know they kinda grow up someday right? and they say it happens very very fast!!!

  11. LOL! LOVE it! We are terrible about spell talk. We just shorten words down to a couple of letters. Well little smartypants doesn't take long to figure out everytime we say HB (hamburger)or MC (McDonald's) he gets a hamburger. And I tried to spell P-O-O-L he pipes up "Pool! Swim!" This was before he talked much at all. Spelltalk is totally complicated.

  12. Very funny post!! Hubby and I both grew up in South Africa where children are taught a compulsory second language, AFRIKAANS. So we have this wonderfully descriptive language to converse in whenever we need it. It'll do until the kids go to school and start learning it themselves :-)

  13. hahahaha! You have to start using big words once they can spell. For example, Maddie is "offspring 1". And, lucky for you, Ali is really smart! She'll be spelling in no time!

  14. too cute we do the same thing except my sweetpea knows what we are talking about now.

  15. After SpellTalk, you sort of begin to play a version of Taboo. You talk to each other in your "couple code". "You know, the place where we went and saw the referee striped ungulates?" = ZOO!

    Also, you just start whispering and peering around corners more. But even that only lasts so long. Mine is seven now and it's pretty hard to get one over on her. You might have to start texting each other.

  16. So funny. Yes, we are well past Spell Talk now that Rayna is reading. So sometimes Jonathan and I text each other if we don't want her to hear us talking about something specific LOL. Oh technology!

    It was good to see you Saturday and to meet Chris. We ended up at the park til after 3pm. It was a long day. Ha.

  17. We use just a little spell talk and a whole lot of code names.
    For example…the yellow guy is Spongebob, we cannot say that word aloud in our house unless we are planning on watching him.

    We only spell a little because my husband is a terrible speller. Sometimes he just sends me txt messages…gotta love technology.

  18. Noah and I are far away from having kids, but this still made my day. It is our one year anniversary today and I am currently studying for a test I have tomorrow (well, maybe procrastinating by reading your blog when I'm supposed to be studying:) ) BUT ANYWAY, my case in point..thanks for the l-a-u-g-h! :)

  19. we used chinese for a while…then the girls started picking up more and more, so we had to change tactics. we try to use the biggest words in the dictionary – words that our kids will never understand -but then one night at dinner, samantha used the word "henchmen" and "tragic"…so maybe they pick up more than I thought?

    you guys had some great spelltalk stories!

  20. I don't have kids yet, but we spell speak in front of the dogs
    "I think today is a good day to give the girls B-A-T-H's while it's warm"
    "Are you taking them O-U-T just to P-O-T-T-Y or to G-O on a W-A-L-K?" (the dogs get excited just to hear the work "go")
    "Where did you put the baggy of T-R-E-A-T-S?"

  21. Ha ha, by the time they learn Spelltalk they're teenagers, and then they could care less what we say anyway!

  22. LOL, we have so done the "letter after O" thing before. I can't remember who did it but we both laughed.
    And I agree with the pp, Pig Latin worked in my family until we were in our teens. Unfortunately, my mother never understood it and eventually we used it against her. So make sure that whatever you use, you are both fluent.

  23. ha ha I think everyone uses a form of spell talk. I think Swahili is the only hope you have for secrecy in the future.

  24. Big words…. SAT worthy words if possible. We all admit that they are going to learn the system. If she is going to go to the trouble of learning something, then teach the young mind useful things like this: storing paraphernalia and accoutrements (stuff) in their proper receptacles can lead to opportunities for adrenaline reduction (playing) and euphoria (fun/excitement). Then, require definitions before the child can use the word… whether it is "stupid", "sucks", or "sesquipedalian". When one is learned, use a synonym.

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