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Angel Doughty

Language and Language Development


March 9, 2016

The Adventures of Amelia Bedelia


Amelia BeDelia is a housekeeper for Mr. and Mrs. Rogers. Her first instruction
as the maid is to do, just what the list says. (6) Amelia wants to do her best work
for Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, so she bakes them a pie and gets to work on her list. The
following chart shows how Amelia did just what the list says, even though she
often doesnt think it makes sense.
Task in Adventures of Amelia Bedelia
Change the towels in the green
bathroom (pg. 16)
Amelia got some scissors. She snipped
a little here and a little there. And she
changed those towels.
Dust the furniture (pg. 20)
Well look at that. A special powder to
dust with. She spreads dusting power
on the furniture and admires the nice
smell
Draw the drapes when the sun comes in
(pg. 25)
Im not much of a hand at drawing,
but Ill try. So Amelia Bedelia sat right
down and drew those drapes.
Put the lights out when you finish in the
living room. (28) She switched off the
lights. Then she carefully unscrewed
each bulb. And Amelia Bedelia put the
lights out. (On a clothes line outside)
Measure two cups of rice (pg. 34)
Amelia measured that rice. (with a
measuring tape)
Please trim the fat (from the steak)
before you put the steak in the icebox.
And please dress the chicken. (pg.38)
Amelia Bedelia got some lace and bits
of ribbon. And she decorated the fat
like a Christmas Tree. And she put some
clothes on the chicken.

Conventional meaning
Switch the towels for clean ones

Clean the dust off the furniture

Close the drapes when the sun comes


in

Turn off the lights in the room

Measure out an amount of rice to be


used
Cut the fat off the steak and stuff the
chicken

When Mr. And Mrs. Rogers come home and see what Amelia has
accomplished, Mrs. Rogers is very upset. She tells Amelia that she ruined her best
towels, made a mess of the furniture, will have the furniture fade because the sun is
beating on it, is silly for taking all the bulbs out, measured out the rice incorrectly,
and didnt put the meat up appropriately. Before she can be fired, Mr. Roger has
Mrs. Rogers taste the pie that she made. Mrs. Rogers cant fire Amelia because she
loves her baking so well. After that, Mrs. Rogers learns to say things like:
Undust the furniture
Unlight the lights
Close the drapes

It is important to understand that words have different meanings depending


on the circumstances. I think that Amelia Bedelia books are a great example of how
our language is fluid and changing. While the phrases make sense to a person with
an expanded vocabulary and life experience to show what the true meaning of the
statements are, it does not make sense to a person who may be just learning the
language. What I have learned through this course is that there is importance in
discussing words that have different meanings. It is also worth note that nouns and
verbs can be interchanged in sentences and completely change the meaning.
What I have found in Amelia Bedelia books is that they use a formal language
that isnt really spoken any more. If someone speaks formally, it stands out now. In
the 60s that may not have always been the case. Here we are 55 or so years later,
and the formal syntax is considered odd, and often times as Amelia learns, doesnt
make conventional sense.
What I will take away from this course is the new found appreciation for the
history and etymology of the spoken languages. I love to learn how words have
changed meanings, and how fun it is to speculate on the direction of the evolution.

Parrish, P. (1963). Amelia bedelia. New York: Scholastic.