Giles Turnbull has a funny Morning News piece about “a unique quirk of language: Lego nomenclature”:
Every family, it seems, has its own set of words for describing particular Lego pieces. No one uses the official names. “Dad, please could you pass me that Brick 2×2?” No. In our house, it’ll always be: “Dad, please could you pass me that four-er?”
And I’ll pass it, because I know exactly which piece he means. Lego nomenclature is essential for family Lego building. …
Then, when another seven-year-old came round for tea after school one day, I overheard the two of them, busy in the spaceship construction yard that used to be our living room, get into a linguistic thicket.
“Can you see any clippy bits?” my son asked his friend. The friend was flummoxed. “Do you mean handy bits?” he asked, pointing.
“Yes,” replied my boy. “Clippy bits.”
Of course! This language of Lego isn’t just something our family has invented; every Lego-building family must have its own vocabulary. And the words they use (mostly invented by the children, not the adults) are likely to be different every time. But how different? And what sort of words?
So he takes a mini-survey (“So that’s how we discovered that a ‘cylinder one-er’ can also be known as ‘Coke bottles’ or a ‘golden wiper'”) and provides a chart of the results. It’s fun, and as Geoff Pullum says in his Log post (where I found the link), “It’s about the deep-seatedness of children’s need to have names for all the things they deal with — and the lack of any necessity for there to be pre-existing names in the language they happen to have learned.”