by:

It is an unfortunate reality, but, for whatever reason, certain members of certain societies find themselves unable to wrap their minds around the esoteric practices and customs and vernacular of other certain societies.

As it turns out, I am one of these unfortunate certain members of a certain society.

Maybe it’s the language differentiations that have confounded me. Maybe it’s a self-willed ignorance or a willing close-mindedness on my part. Maybe it’s a failure on the part of all the societies of all the cultures involved…although somehow I doubt that.

Whatever the reason, though, when my one-year-old daughter says, with authority, “Bob!” I have absolutely no idea what the hell she’s talking about.

And it’s not just her. I have recently learned that others in her culture also feel strongly (very strongly, in fact) about “Bob!”

I don’t think “Bob” is a person. “Bob” seems to be more of a concept, an idea, a philosophy even—the nature of which is apparently held secret amongst the members of this toddling secret society. “Bob!” they all seem to proclaim. “Bob!  Bob!  Bob!” And nobody in possession of an otherwise ostensible adult intellect seems to have any idea what the hell these little people are talking about.

All of this would naturally beg the question: What does “Bob” mean?

Through much exhaustive and costly research undertaken by this investigator, I have only managed to determine what “Bob” does not mean:

It does not mean hungry or thirsty or wet. It does not mean hello or What’s that? or dog. Contrary to what I’d initially supposed, “Bob” is not a proper name. It does not mean mother, father, tree, telephone, or kumquat. It doesn’t mean bed, bath, bye, or bottle.  For a little while, I thought it meant “Fat man,” but, alas, no. My wife is fairly certain that “Bob” means “stuffed animal gorilla,” but her opinions on topics such as this are not to be trusted. My dog is fairly certain that “Bob” means “pigeon bird,” but his opinions on topics such as this are almost never right.

It did cross my mind once or twice that “Bob” didn’t actually mean anything at all, but my unshakeable curiosity and my intrepid sense of discovery made it impossible for me to accept that unfortunate reality, so the search continues.

The true tragedy here of course is that once my little one is old enough to tell me what “Bob” means in her culture, she’ll no longer have any recollection of the concept.

Truly, on that day, what a loss it will be for all mankind.

“Bob.” Some things in the unfathomable universe are simply unfit for the human intellect.

Every Wednesday, Jason brings us stories from the front lines of Manhattan childrearing. Hungry for more parenting adventures? Check out Jason’s blog The Recent Paterfamilias. Have a question or a topic you’d like to ask a New York stay-at-home dad? Email it to emily@askanewyorker.com.

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