As a preschool teacher, child development fascinates me. As I am currently homeschooling my four-year-old nephew, I love watching him learn and evaluating why he does certain things.
We recently visited the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival where he enjoyed the huge windmill at Rosengaard garden. He has seen a windmill on Thomas the Tank Engine, but it was generally a new thing for him. He kept asking to go back to see it, but kept calling it a “coldmile”. It took me some tries to figure out what he was saying, and then I started thinking about why he would confuse “windmill” with “coldmile”.
It occurred to me that he likely did not know what a “mill” was. As adults we understand that a mill is something that turns, usually for the purpose of grinding or moving something, as in a pepper mill or a grain mill. He does not know that machine mills move and grind grain, or that a watermill uses a water wheel to produce power. For my nephew, the closest word he could think of was “mile”. Through movies like Cars and through conversations about where things are, mile is a word that sounds like mill but is familiar to him.
Thus, he replaced the word “mill” with another word which is associated by phonetic similarity.
The word “cold” is a weather term included on our preschool weather chart. “Windy” is also on the chart, so he associates those words because he sees them together. He heard the word “cold” nearly every day for the first six months of school, while “windy” only came up a few times. Though “wind” is a familiar word, it is not as familiar to him as “cold”.
Thus, he replaced the word “wind” with another word he associated through the categorical status of “weather terms”.
Windmill –> coldmile.
Amazing how the brain works.