When my son was small we had a lot of fun every morning before breakfast building up elaborate fantastical verbal structures with words, little firework displays of sparks catching fire from the other's ideas. In this way, playing led to his learning about how to use language to express himself. When he had something to tell us, we tried hard to stop and listen carefully, and to talk back. And of course, having actors in the family made for ever-ready amusement at double-entendres!
On long car-journeys, my husband and I often compare words in Spanish, German, Italian, French and English etc with their Welsh equivalent. It's endlessly fascinating to see where Latin has endured in some instances, whereas in others the northern European has won out - eg with the word for milk: leche (Spanish), latte (Italian), lait (French) and llaeth (Welsh)
are all obviously related, whereas the English word is brother to the German - milch.
A number of the words beginning with the letters 'sn' seem to have a family relationship, all with a bit of a nasty flavour eg sneer, snide, snigger, sneaky. When you say these words out loud, the tongue hisses and the top lip bunches up under the nose, which itself crinkles, the teeth below being bared. Is this a physical manifestation of an aggressive vocal expression, I wonder?
I love language, languages, and dialects, and the smallest one of all, the nuclear family dialect, made up of shared experiences and family jokes - things misheard, lines from favourite films or songs, the things children got wrong, which stick around.
Some expressions may have been handed down for generations. When my son was at art school, some Chinese students in his studio were highly amused to hear him say "Ay - ahh!" when he hit his thumb while making a canvas. They explained that this sounded like a Chinese expression made when in pain. He told them that it was something he had picked up from me. I've never been to China, but my father's grandfather exported wool from Wiltshire to Shanghai in the nineteenth-century, and the family lived out there for some years. Perhaps I inherited it from the generations before me? Who knows?