Is ba-ba a word? It's an important question. Really, it is.
Now that he can get around a bit Isaac likes standing by the stairs holding onto the stair gate. He will stand there happily for ages and is always pleased to exchange the time of day with anyone who comes along. We can stand there and 'chat' for whole minutes, self leaning on the bannisters, Isaac clinging onto the gate and looking up at me with the wide, unblinking gaze that only a baby can possess.
The other day he was gurgling away as normal when I distinctly heard him say 'ba-ba'. It was very quiet, the top lip sucking gently over the bottom lip as he enunciated, but it was enough for me. I leant closer, listening intently. The sound came again and then again; soft, with a slight touch of saliva but persistent. A mild shock, a sudden hush, an epoch! Isaac can talk! It's official.
Or is it? Most parents look for signs of genius in their children, take note of any signs of extra-ordinary intelligence or prowess: when they first sit up, when they first crawl, when they first walk and when they first talk. Baby's first word is an event in the infant calendar roughly on a par with baby's first tooth and baby's first steps but I'm not convinced that pronoucing 'ba-ba' actually qualifies as recognisable speech. There is a huge part of me that claims it is - after all, it's a definite step up from 'goo' and squeak - but there is another part of me that whispers that 'ba-ba' is just another random sound and cannot be counted as a proper word. My wife points out that we only have to go into a field of sheep to give the phrase a bit more credence. I would like to agree with her but I'm not sure whether I can.
Oh well, I'll just have to persist in saying 'da-da' to the poor kid, slipping into the worst possible kind of baby-talk in the hope that one day he'll reply. I feel that then, and only then, will I be convinced.