Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: A Fisher-Price talking doll utters the phrases "Islam is the light" and "Satan is king."
Example: [Collected on the Internet, October 2008]
Origins: In October 2008 some parents of children who owned "Little Mommy Real Loving Baby Cuddle and Coo" dolls reported odd utterances made by those talking toys. They heard statements such as "Islam is the light" and "Satan is king" emanate from them, vocalizations regarded as sneaky attempts at indoctrination of impressionable children into belief systems not favored by their families.
What they heard wasn't what the dolls were saying.
"Little Mommy Real Loving Baby Cuddle and Coo" is one of a line of "Little Mommy Real Loving Baby" dolls manufactured by Fisher-Price, a subsidiary of toy giant Mattel, Inc. The doll's verbalizations set it apart from other offerings in that toy line: "Cuddle and Coo" was advertised as producing cooing, giggling, and babbling sounds rather than words, thereby imitating the
Mattel said in a press statement about the controversial doll:
The Little Mommy Cuddle 'n Coo dolls feature realistic baby sounds including cooing, giggling, and baby babble with no real sentence structure. The only scripted word the doll says is "mama." There is a sound that may resemble something close to the word "night, right, or light."The Gastonia Gazette found that when they had four people unfamiliar with the Little Mommy
Because the original sound track is compressed into a file that can be played through an inexpensive toy speaker, actual sounds may be imprecise or distorted.
The Gazette bought one of the disputed dolls for $19.99 at the Gastonia Target. Four people were selected at random and asked to describe the noises it made, and while two distinctly heard the word "light" or "life," no one picked out the supposed Muslim message.Other toys that speak have been the focus of similar misunderstandings. The 2006 talking book Potty Time with Elmo had some folks hearing its
In 1982 similar problems plagued "Baby Darling," a doll manufactured in
As to why we misperceive sounds that are nonsensical or words uttered in foreign languages, we humans are pattern-seeking critters. Because we're not geared to handle blasts of random input on the basis of what they are, we instinctively shoehorn the chaos we encounter into forms that are familiar to us. That leads us to see rabbits and sailing ships in clouds and hear supernatural whisperings in the sounds made by waterfalls and strong winds. It also leads to our picking up disquieting or even frightening messages from audio files embedded into children's toys and played through tinny speakers. Haphazard babblings are "heard" as strings of actual words, and sentences spoken in other tongues are "heard" as phonetic approximations in our own.
We "hear" what we expect to hear, which is words spoken in our mother language honed into meaningful sentences. Such instinctive behavior leads to perfectly innocuous talking dolls being regarded as imparting Satanic messages, especially when we've already been exposed to suggestive rumors telling us what we're supposed to be hearing.
However, that there isn't anything actually amiss with the "Little Mommy Real Loving Baby Cuddle and Coo" doll doesn't mean it's going to win over the public. The bottom line regarding such misunderstood toys is that it doesn't really matter what they are actually saying or why we mishear their verbalizations as something completely different than what's been programmed into them; it's what we perceive them to be saying. Few parents will happily keep a doll in the house that it hears as voicing "Kill mommy" or "Satan is king."
Barbara "baby talk" Mikkelson
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