Baby Grammarian

Below, Nick Gillespie writes:

Yet the [Baby Einstein] stuff is good product, a real cut above a lot of the other, even more tedious crap that's out there for kids.

I hate to disagree with my esteemed editor, but I have to object to this "cut above" business. I swore when my daughter was born that we wouldn't buy anything labeled "Baby Einstein," "Junior Genius," "Newborn Vulcan," etc., and I've kept to that promise; my only exposure to Baby Einstein's series of Warholian videos for toddlers has come at other parents' homes. But we did receive one or two Baby Einstein books as presents. Here's a quote from Who Lives in the Pond, written by the presidentially approved Julie Aigner-Clark herself:

Tadpole scoots through the water. He spies a spotted salamander slide along the mossy green bank.

"Slide"..."sliding"...what's the diff? It's all the same to us Einsteins, right?

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  • ||

    Was "slide" meant to be used as a noun?

  • ||

    I've read interesting evidence to suggest that parking young'uns in front of the television may lead to an increased risk of developing autism. Baby Einstein my ass.

  • ||

    Would you object if the verb were different?

    He sees a spotted salamander slide along the mossy green bank.

    Is that also wrong?

  • Bhh||

    Dude, that's like poetry and stuff.

    I'm going to have to go with the pro-Baby Einstein faction here. The videos have a strange power over cranky one-year-olds.

  • ||

    "The videos have a strange power over cranky one-year-olds."

    Perhaps you should do a frame-by-frame examination of the things. Just in case.

  • ||

    I'm about to have a kid and I too am enacting an all things Baby Einstein ban. Mostly because they creep me the fuck out. Plus, I know a lot of my friends' kids watched the stuff and they're still mostly idiots. Can some one tell me why these things work any better than any other bright colored stuff moving on a TV screen?

  • ||

    Doctor Duck -- Yes, the verb makes a difference. He sees a spotted salamander slide along the mossy green bank and He spies a spotted salamander sliding along the mossy green bank are both correct ("correct" in the sense that standard, idiomatic English is correct).

    He spies a spotted salamander slide along the mossy green bank is not correct.

    I had to look this one up. According to Curme's Grammar of the English Language (a standard reference), "after the verbs let, leave, bid, make, have, see, behold, notice, look at, observe, perceive, watch, find, feel, hear, overhear, listen to, the objective predicate is usually a simple infinitive [i.e., the infinitive form without "to" in front of it], but after bid, make, have, feel, see, observe, find, we sometimes employ also the infinitive with to." (vol. II, p. 124.)

    "See" is on Curme's list -- "I saw him do it" -- but not "spy" (or numerous other verbs).

  • ||

    Actually, wouldn't "slide" be a correct usage if the author meant to convey that Tadpole observed the entire completed action over time, vs. a "time slice" of the action?

    Ie. I saw him play a round of golf. vs. I saw him playing a round of golf.

    The latter connotation is that I did not see the entire event, but saw him for a moment in the course of completing the action

  • ||

    Baby Einstein's were great. Little Einsteins is even better. My 3 year old loves them. Everything else out there pales, other than The Backyardigans. I love The Backyardigans too.

  • ed||

    My parents raised me on the Baby Gump Super 8 movies and I turned out just fyne.

  • Bhh||

    I think it's the puppets. From my experience, kids around 1 year or so don't seem to be much into watching people, or cartoons, but puppets somehow work for them. They also have no interest in watching CNBC, even if Erin Burnett is on.

    All kids shows are weird or tedious or both. You've got Steve tripping balls on Blues Clues, the DMT elves on Teletubbies, or you've got the very very ernest Dora. Then there's Diego, the most annoying franchise extension since Scrappy Doo.

  • ||

    So your saying my life is about to become TV hell.

    Louis CK is right. Kids are assholes.

  • ||

    "See" is on Curme's list -- "I saw him do it" -- but not "spy"

    We seem to know when something sounds wrong, but finding hard and fast rules to quantify it can be difficult.

    If it comes down to what's on someone's list, some slack might be in order.

    After all, spy here is in pretty good company with see, behold, notice, look at, observe, perceive, watch

    And "He looks at the salamander slide along the bank" doesn't sound any more correct to my mind's ear than "spies" does.

    Not to say Curme is wrong, or that you are, but it does seem like a case of making up rules that fit what grates.

  • ||

    Actually, wouldn't "slide" be a correct usage if the author meant to convey that Tadpole observed the entire completed action over time, vs. a "time slice" of the action?

    Ie. I saw him play a round of golf. vs. I saw him playing a round of golf.

    You can make that argument, but the point is that "I spied him play a round of golf" is not standard, idiomatic English -- it's not something that educated speakers of English would normally say.

    Now, if as a children's book author you want to buck standard English, that's fine. But then don't advertise your product as "Baby Einstein."

  • ||

    We seem to know when something sounds wrong

    That reminds me of what my English teacher used to tell me when I told her a particular word didn't "sound" right;

    "It don't matter what it 'sound' like, this ain't music class!"

    (yeah, it was a public school)

  • ||

    Not to say Curme is wrong, or that you are, but it does seem like a case of making up rules that fit what grates.

    I agree that it's not logical. Idiom is not logical. I brought in Curme just as a data point for what's standard, idiomatic English in this context. He was a good collector of examples from what was (for his day, in the 1930s) recent literature. There's not really anything more recent that's comparable AFAIK.

  • ||

    But then don't advertise your product as "Baby Einstein."

    Baby Einstein would say, "He a spottedsalamander the mossy green bank alongslide spies."

  • ||

    Wiggles, get your kid into the wiggles... it's the only way to retain your sanity - everything else becomes grating really fast. :)

    The baby einstein video series is nice (they have good music and the visuals are very nicely done). Their books, though are not so good, I find them rather pretentious, actually. Certainly my kids who normally love books pretty much rejected them from the get-go.

    Little Einsteins, on the other hand is utter crap. It's based on the discredited idea that listening to Mozart improves IQ. Throw on some classical music CD's and give your kid a nice toy (or the box the toy came in ;) and let them have fun.

    Barney is evil. (I'm semi serious; There is something about it that makes me feel it is unhealthy, although I can't quite put my finger on it) It's also really, really tedious... claw-your-eardrums-out annoying.

  • coyote||

    English was a second language to Einstein. Having "baby Einstein" grammar lessons is sort of like having a "baby scharzenegger" conversation series.

  • ||

    Little Einsteins is great. It has hardly anything to do with music. It is about using tools at your disposal to solve problems. Put that theme to a Nick Lachey soundtrack, and it would still be better than that "Wiggles" fruit salad shit.

    :)

  • ||

    I raised my kids on Speed Racer, Johnny Sokko, Marx Bros and Ray Harryhausen movies. They seem to be turning out fine.

  • ||

    That reminds me of what my English teacher used to tell me when I told her a particular word didn't "sound" right;

    "It don't matter what it 'sound' like, this ain't music class!"

    Your teacher had a good point. She was trying to teach you standard English, which had an idiom different from your (our) little kid neighborhood English. What she was teaching didn't sound right in your idiom, but was nevertheless correct in the standard idiom.

  • ron||

    that sentence sounds like something a bram stoker character would say.

  • ||

    I was raised on HR Puffinstuff, Land of the Lost, Star Blazers, and School House Rock, and look at me, I turned out just..............waaait a minute, I'm a goddam wreck.

  • ||

    That sentence is grammatical but awkward, as others have observed. The question is whether one wants to imply an imperfect or perfect aspect, but I have to admit that the awkwardness makes me think the sensibleness of the sentence is an accident.

  • Sam Franklin||

    I had to look this one up. According to Curme's Grammar of the English Language (a standard reference), "after the verbs let, leave, bid, make, have, see, behold, notice, look at, observe, perceive, watch, find, feel, hear, overhear, listen to, the objective predicate is usually a simple infinitive [i.e., the infinitive form without "to" in front of it], but after bid, make, have, feel, see, observe, find, we sometimes employ also the infinitive with to." (vol. II, p. 124.)

    The real Einstein modified the rules of physics because they were too restrictive and therefore wrong.

    Sounds like the complained-of author is doing much the same thing in realms lexi-grammatical.

    The real Einstein didn't get a very heartening welcome from the establishment at first either. They wanted physics professors that fit in better and were more respectable.

  • ||

    I love Baby Einstein. We have their Baby Mozart and Baby Beethoven VHS tapes and my kids love them. What's really cool about it is now if they out somewhere and hear Mozart (Beethoven) music playing somewhere, they say, "Hey, that's Mozart! (Beethoven!)"

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Astute parents don't force feed kids Baby Einstein, Baby Beluga, or broccoli.

    If you're paying attention you notice what interests the kid. That can create dissonance sometimes as in my maniacal son who loves classical music, the trumpet, and Green Day or my Harvard bound House Blond and her affinity for gymnastics and listening to Rascal Flats while doing difficult math problems for fun.

    Most fun I ever had with my son: When he was first talking I taught him to say Barney Sucks. That was good for a lot of laughs for a couple of years. Come over here son, now what do you think of Barney? On cue. Barney Sucks and all the adults collapse into hysteria.......

    Truly a Kodak Moment

  • ||

    To the parents commenting here,

    My boy is going on 10 mos. old. So far, we have neither avoided nor sought anything by brand name. We have bought what we would like the boy to read (look at while he's read to, really), and to play with. We are teaching him to enjoy music, or, rather, we are playing him music so that he may learn to enjoy it. (He really likes Wee Hairy Beasties.) We have avoided TV and videos, except baseball.

    Do you have recommendations as far as toys, books, music, maybe videos, etc.?

  • ||

    highnumber,

    Get the kid legos. They're the best toys ever invented.

  • ||

    When he gets a little older, I guess. I missed the 10 mos part. Oops.

  • ||

    highnumber - Good Night Moon was a great book when my kids were younger. Kiss Good Night, also. Yummy Yucky is good too at that age.

    As stated, we liked the Einstein video series if the kids had to watch TV. To them, that was a treat. Don't get fooled by the acrid responses here about Baby Einstein. They are fine.

    As far as toys go, Leap Frog has some decent stuff, but at that age, anything goes. Especially toys that will help him stand. There is a Leapfrog table with a whole bunch of musical instruments on it that was great when they were just learning to pull themselves up.

  • ||

    I have got to find that Leapfrog table. That's perfect for him right now. He is always trying to pull himself up and he loves musical instruments.

    I have one thing to say about Good Night Moon:
    "Good night, air"

    Juh?

  • ||

    Someone gave me the Baby Einsteins when my now-5 year old was born and I found them useful mainly for when she was old enough to be propped up on a boppy, in the middle of my bed, but still couldn't crawl or roll out or otherwise escape. I would set her up and turn on an Einstein so I could take a shower or just grab five minutes to myself. They entranced her. Of course, the other day she told me she needs a temperpedic mattress because she has trouble sleeping, and I said no, she doesn't need a temperpedic, and she said, But Mama, they're designed by NASA! And I said ok, maybe I have let you watch too much TV.

    And Cab: Damn you. It's been two years since I had "yummy yummy yummy yummmy fruit saLAD!" in my head, and now it's back.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    High, we had dozens and dozens of books, one of which was Good Night Moon that Cab mentioned. At that age, my kids loved those kinds of little kid books that had all kinds of different tactile sensations that they could rub, touch, and slobber on. We read to them, rocked them, and constantly talked to them.

    Kohirabi is right about Legos. You can get great big ones that the kid can't swallow. My kids played with those even after they had the little Leggos. My son still likes Legos but now he has those huge Lego pirate ships.

    My kids also liked those brightly colored foam building blocks. They're about 8 inches cubed.

    We just gave away about 100 little kid books, too bad, I would have shipped them to you.

  • ||

    highnumber - Hey, air rhymes with everywhere, so whaddaya gonna do? My kids loved pointing out the mouse on each page.

    Google this to find that table at Amazon: LeapFrog Groove Musical


    stubs - my humble apologies :)

  • ||

    Cab,

    It's bilingual, too! It looks like that would be my boy's favoritest toy ever!

    TWC, kohlrabi,

    I anxiously await the day that he can play with Legos. He loves blocks, but he is not to the building stage yet. He really likes to bang them together and play catch with them now. I was Lego deprived as a child. When I was 18 I mentioned to my mother that I never had my own Legos and had to go across the street to play with them as a child. That year I got a box for Christmas. Yes, I played with them.

  • Bob Z||

    I personally don't care for the way Legos have changed over the past 15 - 20 years. The generic blocks from my childhood, with a few specialized parts (windows, wheels, etc.), have been replaced by fancier kits with far too many single application parts. The models look a lot more realistic, but I think it cuts down on the creativity factor.
    That said, the old Lego expert sets like the car chassis with engine and transmission or the helicopter with working main and tail rotor were IMHO the finest toys ever made. My parents gave me the car kit for my eighth birthday, and I was challenged more trying to put that beast together than by anything I encountered in school prior to college.

  • ||

    Two words: Lincoln Logs

  • ed||

    Rolling a barrel hoop with a stick can be fun.

  • ||

    Rolling a barrel hoop with a stick can be fun.

    You know what's even more fun?
    Whitewashing this here fence.
    I'll let you try it for an aggie and a dead cat.

  • ||

    Well, maybe the tadpole spies a salamander playground, complete with a salamander swing, a salamander teeter-totter, and a salamander slide. With spots. The slide runs along a mossy green bank.

    Thus, he spies a spotted salamander slide along the mossy green bank.

    No?

  • ||

    Soon to be parent question. Is there some good reason kids can't just listen to your music? I mean I'm not going to expose her to the Ghetto Boys, but why can't I just put on the Beatles and make everyone happy?

  • blane||

    what did Einstein play with?

  • ||

    Steve -- If you're wondering why no one is laughing, Eryk Boston already that joke this evening. See the very first comment above.

  • ||

    ". . . Eryk Boston already made that joke . . . ."

  • ||

    This is actually a grammer problem I have never thought out before, but my instinct is that bchurch is the most correct of those who have commented, or at least the one I agree with the most. (Perhaps b and I are wrong together, of course.)

  • ||

    Yes, I know it's spelled "grammar." Sorry.

  • ||

    Matt J,

    So far, we have played our boy all sorts of music: hip kids music like They Might Be Giants and Wee Hairy Beasties, and music we enjoy like Paul Weller, the Beatles, all sorts of stuff - we have eclectic tastes. Most of it he ignores. I highly recommend going to the Bloodshot Records link I posted above for Wee Hairy Beasties. You can download their eponymous song for free. I think he was only 5 or 6 months old when it came out, but he started smiling and laughing when he heard first heard it and now, at 10 months, he starts moving his body like he's trying to dance when we play it and he raises his arms with the chorus.

    Wee! (Raise arms)
    Hairy Beasties
    Wee! (Raise arms)
    Hairy Beasties
    Bouncing all around (Bounce around)
    Wee! (Raise arms)
    Hairy Beasties
    Wee! (Raise arms)
    Hairy Beasties
    All around the town (I spin around in a circle, hoping that he will have the routine down when he can stand.)

    It is a fun, fun album. They do blues ("I'm an Ant," sung to "Mannish Boy"), jug band, old-timey swing, ragtime...good times for kids & adults.

  • ||

    Boy, do I not care how dumb your kids are.

  • ||

    ultron cares enough to hit "submit."
    Interesting.

  • ||

    Matt J: sure, your kids should be hearing your music from the get go. I don't buy that a home must become all kid entertainment all the time in fact, we are consciously determined not to let our daughter become the center of the family because it's not good for us and hence not good for her. We listen to our own music (she seems to have a preference for 80s rock, which suits me fine) and we watch non-profanity laden grownup shows with her in the room.

    When my nephew was about 3, he was going around singing something about "my bwoken huht, and shatturd dweams, r sitting on a shelf" - I'm trying to transliterate his R problem - and my sister said hmm, that doesn't sound like a preschool song. So she mentioned it to my musically inclined, part time singer bro in law and he said "Cool! That's from my Bryan McKnight CD!" And indeed, at 5 my nephew can sing most of the lyrics to most songs he hears a few times.

    I do allow a lot of Sesame Street and Laurie Berkner in the car, but it's at my discretion, not hers.

  • edna||

    "dinosaur roar" - a fine book
    "miffy goes to the zoo"- this is a total piece of shit that for whatever reason absolutely captivated my son when he was about 1.
    "baby einstein" made him cry. something about it frightened him.
    "iron chef" kept him entertained for hours. i knew it was a good thing when i saw him play with a fisher-price toy that had pop-up characters; he'd pop up the first one and say, "iron chef french is yookie sakai," he'd pop up the second and say, "iron chef chinese is chen keechee," pop up the third and say "iron chef japanese is roxbro itchy-bob."
    and finally, when your kid is ready for music, they might be giants. "no!" is a particular favorite.

  • ||

    It's a Chris Rock line, highnumber, actually refering to paying taxes for schools. I thought it was appropriate.

  • ||

    Some things that seem to have caught the interest of nieces and nephews:

    The Wallace and Gromit shorts (A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers, and A Close Shave).

    The children's books in verse by Bill Peet (Hubert's Hair Raising Adventure, How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head, etc.).

  • ||

    ultron,

    I am a cultural idiot. I am sorry that I took that to be a knock on the children of H&R commentors.
    I was right though, you do care. ♥

  • ||

    BabyFirst TV is great!

  • ||

    "iron chef" kept him entertained for hours. i knew it was a good thing when i saw him play with a fisher-price toy that had pop-up characters; he'd pop up the first one and say, "iron chef french is yookie sakai," he'd pop up the second and say, "iron chef chinese is chen keechee," pop up the third and say "iron chef japanese is roxbro itchy-bob."

    Did you video this?
    YouTube, please.

  • Ashley||

    I think the overriding point is that if you are labeling it as nutrition for geniuses, you better get it right. They often don't. For example: Baby "Einstein" - AKA, some kinda genius.

  • ||

    highnumber, when my sons were ten months old the mostly played with empty boxes and soda bottles. (Seriously, empty two liter soda bottles make awesome baby toys.) My older son liked Teletubbies and Richard Scarry's "Letters and Numbers", both of which cause tooth decay and bone loss, and may well be banned by the Geneva Convention. "Blues Clues" with Steve, not Joe, and the Wiggles are all pretty good, and the Wiggles are excellent musicians. Both my sons loved "Yellow Submarine," to the point that I might be able to listen again in 20 years.

    As for toys, Brio trains are good until a kid is about five, and, this is for older kids, but check out Playmobil. They have these extremely detailed play sets around themes like Vikings, Pirates, Knights, ordinary life, jungle adventures and such. My younger son got almost the entire pirate theme this time and both boys play with them. Heck, I play with them. (My favorite is the French fort and dungeon, complete with chains and cuffs, rifles, a general and two soldiers, and a working cannon. All for around $20.)

    Legos are also great, especially the Duplos and I think they now make really big, soft ones for babies. Lego story: my older son got a new Bionicle (Lego robots, really nifty) when he made 100 on his 1st grade spelling tests. He missed exactly three words all year long.

  • ||

    highnumber, when my sons were ten months old the mostly played with empty boxes and soda bottles.

    Those were lean times at the Karen household? ;-)
    Seriously, more great tips. We don't drink enough soda. Thank you, Karen. I'm going to look for those big soft baby Legos.

    and

    Matt J,

    Another thing - when the boy was a newborn, I used to comfort him if he was cranky by playing or singing Qawaali music by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. I shit you not. He loved it. It's kind of entrancing. Allah hoo, Allah hoo, Allah hoo...

  • ||

    highnumber, we discovered the wonder of soda bottles as toys because we moved when older son was fifteen months old. The move was in the same city, but for three or four weeks before the big day almost all his toys were packed up. So he went over to the recycling bin and got out an empty soda bottle. He could stand it up and knock it over, beat it, roll his ball into it like bowling. . . .

  • ||

    Karen,

    Your story sounds very plausible, even likely, but, unfortunately, I already have the story of how your boys got their 2 liter bottles and boxes as toys in my head.

    Karen was taking time off her job as a public defender to have the babies and see them through those first rough 24 months or so of life when a terrible slowdown struck Mr Karen's (I call him Frank, is that ok?) career in aluminum mining. Frank had been the top prospector at his company, jet-setting around the world taking the wife & kids with whenever he could, never straying from his family when he couldn't, but suddenly the recyclers were winning, and Frank hadn't yet figured out a new way. That year Christmas looked to be miserable. Karen, though, had an idea. She wrapped up diaper boxes in the funny papers, empty, but with the prettiest biggest bows you have ever seen. She thought to herself, "That's nothing! The boys will play with the bows for half an hour, then they will be so disappointed with no toys but a box. I must find something else." As she poured the last of the Diet Rite into her mason jar glass, Karen muttered "Eureka!" under her breath. While her heart broke she poured the only other 2 liter of Diet Rite she had left in the world down the drain, she also rejoiced that the boys really would have a Christmas this year, recyclers be damned!

    I could go on.

  • ||

    I only know about "Little Einsteins"....

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