Posted in child avatars, rant, roleplay, roleplaying, rp

Talk like a child, not like an idiot.

I do belive I’ve gotten to the bottom of what it is about some child avatars (not all, but definitely some) that drives me bonkers. It’s the speech. It’s not so much the affectation of the way I talk to my cat when I’m half-awake; it’s how badly it’s done.

Here’s just one example. One day I went into a public place and there was a little girl avatar there who greeted me by saying, “Hebbo.” Who the hell says “hebbo”?! I admit I’m not a parent (I’m an aunt of 10, however, of a wide variety of ages) nor am I in child care for a living (though I was a mentor of developmentally disabled kids while in high school), but I have never heard any child replace “L” sounds with “B” sounds.

I think when people with child avatars pour on the baby-talk thick and heavy, they believe that if they don’t, we’ll forget that they’re kids. The fact that you come up to chest-height on me and have a pacifier (still? At your age? Do your parents WANT you to have horrible teeth?) REALLY is sufficient reminder, thanks.

In the book “How to Write an Uncommonly Good Novel,” one of the authors warns of the dangers of writing dialects in dialogue. It makes it difficult for the reader to maintain the pace of the story if she has to take twice as long to figure out what is being said. It can come off sounding racist if done poorly. One of the rare exceptions to the rule is Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; all the narration is Huck’s own slurred, uneducated speech, and Jim’s dialect makes him sound even less educated. That even an urchin and an escaped slave can “get” what truly makes one a decent human being is a huge part of the point of the novel. It should be interesting to note that Huck Finn received much criticism when it was published; not so much because of its themes or (at least at time of publication) the use of the n-word, but rather because of its course language:

The Concord (Mass.) Public Library committee has decided to exclude Mark Twain’s latest book from the library. One member of the committee says that, while he does not wish to call it immoral, he thinks it contains but little humor, and that of a very coarse type. He regards it as the veriest trash. The library and the other members of the committee entertain similar views, characterizing it as rough, coarse, and inelegant, dealing with a series of experiences not elevating, the whole book being more suited to the slums than to intelligent, respectable people. –The Boston Transcript, 1885

So, what How To Write… essentially says is, unless you’re Mark Friggin’ Twain, don’t write dialects. And even if you ARE Mark Friggin’ Twain, be prepared to meet with opposition.

I know that when I chat in SL, I very rarely type to sound like the way I talk (If I did, I could all but remove the “R” key from my laptop keyboard). But, if you do insist on doing so, I have one humble request to make:


Most children don’t say “Me no want ____”. That’s how Cookie Monster talks, not how his audience talks. In fact, the complete absence of “I” in conversation is ridiculously exaggerated by many kid avatars in SL. Kids say “I”. They say “I’m hungry,” “I’m thirsty”, “I have to pee.” They also have manners; they say “Can I have” instead of “Me want”.

If you really have to replace letters to sound more kid-like, again, do it right. Replace “th” with “f” and “v”, replace “L” with “w” or sometimes “y”. I met another avatar once who said, “I fibe years old.” Really? Then you’re developmentally disabled then. Five-year-olds can make “v” sounds. And they get the verb “to be” by that age too (and not “Me bez five” either!). Afraid that “I’m five years old” just sounds too “adult” for your suspension of disbelief? Then try “I’m this many *holds up five fingers*”.

I’m willing to guess that part of what annoys so many people about child avatars in Second Life is the communication barrier. They don’t want to figure out what you’re trying to say in double the time it takes anyone else, wading through w’s and z’s and horrendous grammar that would make a LOLcat raise its eyebrows. Stupid is not cute. Don’t be stupid. Really listen to how real children talk. Pweeeeze. I begz yous. When you go the route of talking like an idiot, instead of like a kid, you’re causing people to look ill upon ALL child avatars.



19 thoughts on “Talk like a child, not like an idiot.

  1. My son is three. He can’t quite sort out the “I’m” construction yet, so we get a lot of “I thirsty” “I hungry” “I three years old” (or sometimes “I thrwwweee”. “I” is just about the most important word in his vocabulary (and me … as in “play with me” “pick me up” “get that for me”. “I fibe years old” sounds like a kid with a bad cold, honestly.

    Nice post.

    1. Thanks! I feel a bit proud that it came across and made sense to a non-SL person (that I know of…;) ). And I appreciate the point of view from someone who interacts with a small child day in and day out as well.

  2. YUS.

    It’s why, when I am playing my child Av, I take the method of using short, to the point sentences, dropping g off of the end of some words, simple colloquialisms (’cause, and ’nuff) and… getting distracted easily. I actually find that this is easier than trying to find out how to talk with a lot of W and B sounds. and I figure people appreciate being able to read me, and interact with me more. Because how annoying is it in a chat full of people to be trying to decipher phonetically spelled words?

    (and as much as I love lolcats, the message threads that follow hurt my fucking brain. It’s the same sort of thing.)

    “Really? Then you’re developmentally disabled then. Five-year-olds can make “v” sounds. And they get the verb “to be” by that age too (and not “Me bez five” either!).”

    Exactly. I have an easy point of reference with my own children, I just have to think back. (and I don’t even think most 3 year old speak that way.) If they have speech problems that bad, they probably aren’t talking or communicating at all.

    But even if you don’t have kids… it isn’t that hard to research speech levels. It takes less work than it does to find a kid-skin.

    Real children love to impress adults with how precocious they are, and are motivated vocally to speak like adults, where they are rewarded for using big words, and using correct annunciation.

    1. But even if you don’t have kids… it isn’t that hard to research speech levels. It takes less work than it does to find a kid-skin.

      Of course damn near ANYTHING takes less work than finding a kid skin, lol.

  3. heheh

    This is great. I have ran across kids avatars who are more like Little Rascals characters in dress and speech.

    Kids try (even more these days) to act as grown up as they can at an earlier and earlier age so it’s just so out of this world to see.

    Thanks for not turning this into what could of been an attack on a group that gets more than their fair share of that. I’ve got no problem with kids, or rabbits, or robots, or whatever – people I cannot understand on the other hand…..

    Little Marianne McCann is a kid and makes perfect sense.

    1. Thanks for not turning this into what could of been an attack on a group that gets more than their fair share of that.

      Oh, no, indeed. Kids in SL get a bum rap much of the time, I know this well. I have a child avatar alt, a very precocious nine-year-old based on a RL niece. I’ve seen first-hand a lot of the crap that kids in SL get just for wanting to be kids. My criticism is simply with the bad speech, which I do believe is a huge part of the reason that others get annoyed with child avatars in general.

  4. ::waves to Grizzy::

    I had an uncomfortable encounter with a child AV earlier today (Grizzy was also there and may recall). Cute little blonde, very Shirley Temple with shiny blonde sausage curls and a light blue sailor dress, and the conversation took a slightly disturbing turn.

    It amused me to RP in a vaguely Victorian-auntly manner with her in IM, until she wanted to tell me all about why she recently got a spanking.

    Oh well, kid, if you’re gonna play with flame scripts… expect some heat.

    Roleplay over for the day for me! Kid, where’s your momma?

    1. Eep. I’ve encountered a couple individuals who are happy to RP as kids in local, and then in IM go out of their way to hit on me. WHAT?! I mean, yes, they try to establish that they’re an adult in RL and that’s well and good, but when you present yourself as a kid I want to interact with you AS A KID. Thankfully these incidents are few and far enough between that it’s clearly the exception and not the rule, but still. Talk about making the group you belong to look bad…

  5. This is so true.

    “Hewwwooooooooooooo Mistah,” is another I hear from child avatars. The thing is, every single time I think hear that sort of thing, I automatically think of some old man, sitting behind a keyboard typing in some sort of weird “baby tongue,”reminiscent of a child born with only a third of a brain… and the old man pretending to be a child thing… well it freaks me out.

    1. Hiya Josue, thanks for popping in and commenting.

      That people pretend to be kids in SL doesn’t bother me. Hell, people pretend to be all kinds of things: dragons, anthropomorphic foxes, cat-people, vampires, elves, and so on. I’m perfectly comfortable and at peace with the fact that they aren’t really dragons, foxes, etc., at home and as far as I’m concerned, a kid avatar is no different.

      But, yeah, the bad baby-talk drives me bonkers. Even if you must say “hewwo”, say it like that, not with 27 w’s and 8 o’s.

  6. If you want to hear what kids sound like, the Windows 7 ad on TV has some of the cutest 4 year olds around. They don’t talk like adults, but they do talk like kids, NOT like what passes for kid speak on SL. I could sit and listen to these little dolls all day long.

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