A Discussion of Nouns

I was driving two eight-year-old girls home from drama camp today, and the conversation turned to nouns. I wish more eight year olds really fleshed out the ins and outs on nouns.

Here is a dramatization:

Girl 1 (mid-conversation): So they weren’t able to salvage anything from their house.

Girl 2: Oh.

Girl 1 (slightly condescending manner): Salvage means to save. It’s a big word, I know.

Girl 2: Well it’s not the biggest word is the English language. Which is not super-cala-fraga-listic-expi-a-ladocious. That’s not a real word. Gin, tell her what the biggest word in the English language is.

Me: Antidisestablishmentarianism.

Girl 2: Tell her what it means.

Me: Uhh. Being against disestablishing some sort of …government… It’s a noun.

Girl 2: How can it be a noun?

Me: Good question. It’s the ACT of being against distestablishing.

Girl 2: But a noun is something you can touch.

Me: That’s sort of an easy way to remember what a noun is, but it’s not always true. A noun is a thing. There are plenty of nouns you can’t touch–like love or hate.

Girl 2: You can touch a heart. That’s like touching love.

Me: You could touch a heart, but that’s not love itself. You can’t touch the emotion.

Girl 2: If someone punches you in the face, you touch hate.

Me: Okay, you can’t touch hunger or loneliness or sadness.

Girl 2: You can touch tears.

Girl 1: You can’t touch some types of poisonous spiders. They’ll kill you.

Girl 2 (thoughtfully): Spiders are definitely nouns.

Girl 1: You can’t touch porcupines. I saw a show about two men in the wilderness who were starving and they killed a porcupine and they cut it open and pulled out its meat and then pulled out it’s heart and cut it in half and ate it raw. It was this big (indicating a very small heart.)

Girl 2: Porcupines must not have much love.

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