Friday, April 26, 2019


In The Atlantic, John McWhorter writes about why adults are talking like children:

Clearly, kidspeak affords its users certain rhetorical advantages—the way it playfully softens blows is part of why younger people on social media now often couch what they say to one another in the toddler-esque. But what made bright teenagers and 20-somethings start imitating 5-year-olds in the first place? And why are many older Americans following suit?
Bits of our children’s childhood kidspeak long ago entered our household language, but I’ve heard very little of what McWhorter describes. Elaine and I recently used the new all without realizing we were following a trend: “Ayexa, order all  the toys!” And I’ve used the new because just once, because Talia.

comments: 3

Chris said...

I would suggest that "kidspeak" is the result of a healthy skepticism about the benefits of "serious" discourse in a world where the hyperabundance of such discourse seems to be producing no discernible improvement in the state of the world, but to do so would probably be to indulge in exactly the kind of gasbaggery that "kidspeak" opposes (if anything as anarchic as language can be said to "oppose" anything).

shallnot said...

I wonder what would happen if the “kidspeak” crowd met the “kindergarten imperative” (‘Mr. Johnson, I need you to...’) crowd?


Michael Leddy said...

Chris, I too would think there’s a strong element of irreverence in this stuff (though again, I’ve heard very little of it). Probably also us vs. them, as with all kinds of groupspeak. A really revealing moment from teaching: doing “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” sometime in the early 2000s, I asked students (mostly sophomores, I think) what age they would choose if they could freeze time. To a person, they chose five or six. Their nostalgia for that world was genuine and unembarrassed.

I know about that imperative — the teacher is supposed to not request. What would happen? Protest? Compliance? Each seems like a plausible childhood response.