Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Toddlers are to thank for Star Wars

The Toddler had eaten about half his dinner when he noticed there was something on the table that wasn’t on his plate.

“Tauntaun,” he said through the wall of grape jelly hiding his face. There must be a universal law of physics I’m not familiar with that can account for more jelly getting on a two-year-old’s face than what a parent spreads on a sandwich. “Tauntaun.”

Tauntaun? Didn’t Han Solo kill one of those in “The Empire Strikes Back”?

“What does he want?” I asked my wife. She’d know; she could work in international politics if they ever needed a toddler-to-English translator. But given the state of international politics, toddler-to-English may be a little too advanced.

“He wants one of your croutons,” she said, nodding toward my salad.

Crouton/Tauntaun. Makes sense. The boy’s still trying to figure out this whole talking thing. I picked a crouton from the mound of otherwise healthy stuff and put it on his plate. He giggled and stuffed the crouton into his mouth.

“Tauntaun,” he said through the stale bread and pointed at his plate. I didn’t need my wife to translate that one. He wanted more croutons.

But the word tauntaun bugged me. I was sure Han Solo killed one of those sheep-horned ostrich/llama things in “Empire.” Why would my toddler say tauntaun in relation to anything unless: 1) he’s really from a galaxy far, far away, or 2) geekness is hereditary?

If its No. 2, sorry kids.

As I watched my smiling child crunch tauntaun after tauntaun, I understood something that has eluded science fiction fans for 30 years. Tauntaun, Chewbacca, Dagobah, Sith – George Lucas got all those bizarre names for “Star Wars” from a two-year-old.

“Obi-Wan,” the Toddler said as he motioned toward the refrigerator. I don’t know what he wanted, but I think he just proved my point.

Jason’s Star Wars-to-Toddler Dictionary

Anakin: something you use to wipe your mouth.

AT-AT: where the toddler’s standing … right now.

bantha: a toddler’s favorite fruit. Goes well with peanut butter, ice cream or Nilla Wafers.

Dagobah: Daddy’s going to the bathroom.

Dooku: I’m not sure, but I think it’s poopy.

Endor: where the toddler plays when it’s raining.

Hoth: what the oven is. No, no. Hoth, hoth.

Maul: My wife’s mom.

Naboo: it doesn’t hurt.

Sith: something Daddy said while watching the football game.

Wampa: My wife’s dad.

You see? I’ve broken the code. Science fiction doesn’t require creativity, it just needs catchy names. So listen to your niece or nephew, kids at the playground, or your cousin Danny who eats paint chips. The things they jabber will make you rich.

Yeah. Watching my two-year-old finish his crouton and request a chocolate-chip wookiee, I realized I’m sitting on a science fiction franchise, so I’d better start writing – maybe when I finish this diet Yoda.
Jason’s book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” is coming in May. FREE SHIPPING when you order online at: Visit Jason’s Web site,, for his other books.