If so, I have a confession to make:
I want to punch you in the face.
Or, to put it in terms you can understand, “Me wanna give big booboo to da poopyhead!”
OK, that was a little harsh. Me not really wanna give you big booboo, although you are definitely a poopyhead. What I really want to do is to explain to you calmly and rationally why you’re an enemy of the human race. You’re Kim Jong Unbearable. So sit down, grab your binky or your foofoo or whatever the hell you call it and listen up. ‘Kay, Sweetums?
Baby talk is child abuse. Worse, even, because it hurts everyone within earshot. It demeans us as a species. Every time you say “moo-cow” or “goo goo gaga“, you help the apes rise one more rung up the ladder to overtake us.
I’ve never used baby talk on my kids. For starters, I don’t have time to learn a new language. My kids never drank a “baba“. They drank bottles. And those bottles contained milk, not “moo juice“.
I was never “Da-da“, always “Daddy”. It’s not that much harder to say, and it’s so much more satisfying to hear. “Da-da” could mean anything. “Dance-dance”, “dazzle-dazzle”, “Dag Hammarskjöld-Dag Hammarskjöld”.
I won’t even add that cutesy “y” to the end of animal names, like “doggy” or “piggy” or “ducky” or “froggy” — geez, it’s not even creative. You may think those kinds of minor tweaks are sweet and harmless, but as far as I’m concerned, you might as well be teaching your kids Klingon. Made-up words aren’t doing them any good, and they’re just going to have to unlearn them at some point if they want to function in society. Snoop Dogg was in his 30s before he finally dropped the Doggy from his name. It’s a hard habit to break.
“Oh, but it’s cute,” people will say. “I wuv when wittle Jillsy-Willsy tells me she has a boo-boo that needs Mommy’s magic smoochies to make it awl bettuh.” Well, between you and me, Jillsy-Willsy sounds like an idiot, and so do you. Personally, I find my kids cute enough without them talking like mental patients. Of course, I don’t know Jillsy-Willsy. Maybe she can use the boost.
When Bennett was in the hospital, we had a nurse who used some of the most egregious baby talk I’ve ever heard. Bennett had come to fear the nurses, because they were the ones sticking needles in his arm. When this particular lady leaned over his bed, she assured him, “Don’t you worry, baby! I just need to check your pulsy-wulsy. You won’t get any hurties from me!”
I swear the kid looked at me like, “What’s wrong with her?”
C’mon, lady. How is my kid supposed to know what you mean when your entire vocabulary comes straight out of your ass?
People who think they need to talk down to kids are using the same logic tourists use when they go to a foreign country and believe they can break through the language barrier simply by raising their voice. “EXCUSE ME, MONSIEUR, BUT DONDE ESTA THE BATHROOM AT?!!! BATHROOM? FLUSHY-FLUSHY???”
As if baby talk isn’t confusing enough in itself, the perpetrators make their words even less intelligible by purposely mispronouncing them. “Aw, what a sweet wittle guy!” Wittle? Do you think that’s charming? We’ll see how charming it is when Caleb comes home with a broken nose because he told his buddies on the Wittle Weague team he had to make a tinky-tink in the potty. Ever heard of speech therapy? Kids spend years – YEARS! – trying to overcome impediments like the one you’re practically forcing down your child’s throat.
I know. I’m wasting my time. It’s not like I can expect this message to get through to the baby-talkers themselves. I didn’t include nearly enough ooh-oohs and wah-wahs in this essay to hold their interest.
So let me speak instead to the poor, unfortunate children trapped in their care:
Hello, young person.
I’m sure your parents love you very much, so it’s a shame they insist on reinforcing the linguistic hurdles you’re struggling so hard to overcome. They may mean well, but I’m going to tell you something you would probably realize on your own eventually:
Mama and Dada are just a tiny bit insane.
Yes, I know. The truth hurts, but I’m not going to underestimate your intelligence the way they do. You can handle it.
It’s not their fault, of course. Their parents probably spoke baby talk to them when they were growing up. Maybe it scarred them. Maybe they thought it was the only way. But don’t let them hurt you like that.
The cycle ends with you.
When your parents say something asinine, don’t try to figure them out, and please don’t parrot their jibber-jabber back to them. Let them know you’re not going to lower yourself to that level for their amusement. I know I can’t possibly teach you all the real words you should be learning right now, so instead, let me offer one all-purpose phrase you can whip out at need:
“What the hell are you talking about?”
Try it. Say it over and over, whenever your parents talk to you like the baby they want you to remain rather than the well-adjusted grown-up society hopes you’ll become. Eventually, they’ll get the message. And hopefully, if they’re capable, they’ll start making some damn sense.
Good luck. You have a long, hard road ahead of you, like all victims of baby talk. But whatever you do, even when your parents are at their most insufferably incomprehensible, please resist the overwhelming urge you might have to punch them in the face.
That would be terribly immature.