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Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: Turning Motherese

Scared+baby

Every time I speak to a baby I use that stupid high-pitched voice. I don’t know why. I can’t stop it. I see a baby and I start talking like a lunatic. I make my words long and drawn out like helloooooooooo baybeeee. It just looks at me. I think it likes me. I think it likes the baby-talk, so I keep going.

I go nuts on the baby-talk. I am cooing and smiling and it’s dribbling like a beast. The baby is laughing. Or is it laughter or just that thing your face does when someone weirds you out and you can’t stop smiling? I wonder if the baby is thinking, ‘This poor woman. Something is seriously wrong with her. I will keep smiling until she goes away. This is making me very very uncomfortable. Please don’t let her have a “hold”.’

I don’t speak to all children like this. Just babies. I am not sure of the exact point where I address them like regular human beings. I guess it’s when they’re properly verbal and can’t fight back. I only baby-talk to babies who can’t say ‘get fucked, you freak’. I wonder what this instinct to baby-talk is. It’s possibly some sort of emotional connection. Perhaps babies respond better to higher-pitched tones. Or they like it when we appear more stupid than them.

Maybe it’s some primitive setting we have as human beings that aids language development. But I can’t see how. When you baby-talk you make language more complex and wildly inaccurate. You say things like ‘choo choo train’ and ‘broom broom car’. I may have this wrong but I don’t recall adult humans declaring that they have to leave to catch the choo choo train or that they couldn’t find anywhere to park their broom broom car. Maybe those with an adult baby fetish and a penchant for nappies and having their genitals powdered, but not regular grown-ups.

When we go to the doctor we don’t say, ‘I am here because of a pain in my tum tum and a very painful bot bot’. No, baby-talk does not seem to facilitate language development. In fact, I’m no linguist, but I reckon it probably impedes it. Baby-talk does, however, help you feel love and connection. When I speak in a high-pitched voice to a baby I feel this incredible rush of love for the cuteness. It’s like the cuteness explodes my brain. It goes into overload and I can’t talk properly. I wonder whether it’s like another language just made up of tonal rolls and squeals and coos.

Behavioural scientists called this caretaker speech Motherese. Interestingly it’s gender based. Men don’t seem to do it. It’s the cuteness I think that makes me speak like a fuckwit. Although, thankfully, it doesn’t happen when I meet a cute man. I would be a very lonely woman today if every time I’d met someone I fancied I started high-pitch baby-talking him, ‘Hellloooooo… who’s a little cutie… who’s a little cutie… bdbdbdbd’.

Although my internet research has revealed there is a sector of the community who prefer their women infantilised rather than empowered.

It’s not just babies. I talk to animals like this, too. Mainly because I think, like babies, animals can’t talk back. They just feel sorry for you. Although they do seem to love it. ‘Who’s a beautiful boy. Who’s a beautiful boy,’ seems to bring my dog great pleasure. And possibly my husband, but I only scratch his tummy when I want something.

When I was meditating on my baby-talk addiction I realised I don’t do this at the zoo. I don’t talk to wild or captured animals like this. Only domestic animals such as cats and dogs. I wouldn’t stand at the gorilla cage and coo, ‘who is a big beautiful boy look at you big sweetie’. That would be demeaning to his big hairy gorilla masculinity. And besides, the poor bastard is behind bars. It doesn’t seem right to coochy-coo a prisoner.

I have tried to stop it. But I can’t. It’s like a cute baby/fluffy puppy reflex. In my opinion there’s only one thing weirder than people who high-pitch baby-talk to infants… and that’s people who don’t.


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