I can’t help being bothered by this kind of thing:

MLA Info sent you a message: “Pack your badge and Program!” Be prepared! Pack comfy shoes, wear warm layers, and remember to bring your 2019 convention badge and Program (September PMLA).

The lisping, childish language is especially grating. “Comfy shoes?” Advice on how to dress? Hey, how about coming over to the hotel and tying my shoelaces for me if I’m so inept?


11 thoughts on “Infantilizing”

  1. It’s like those warnings on coffee cups that state that the cup’s contents may be very hot. But you know that some people would definitely complain if the MLA didn’t give out these helpful hints. They would co-opt disability discourse and claim something like the conference isn’t being sufficiently “accommodating” or is less “accessible” to some participants.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Apparently many professors are bad with mundane details (mundane = not directly related to their research.)
    Not everyone is prepared for a Chicago winter or for how much walking one does at a conference. If I tried to buy winter clothes at a store here, I could not find proper ones but would have to buy it online. I think that advice is for the Californians/Floridians/Arizonans. “Wear all day at work” comfortable is different than “walk six miles and do the electric slide” comfortable.

    Hey, how about coming over to the hotel and tying my shoelaces for me if I’m so inept?
    Bunny ears or magic fingers?


  3. “lisping, childish language”
    I don’t register it as being especially childish, I think the tone is meant to be cheery and non-threatening (a common tactic when giving what should be, but isn’t, unnecessary advice).
    They have to include things like ‘remember to bring your badge and program because if I know the first thing about university professors then a non-trivial percentage will end up leaving them at home anyway, this takes away the “But no one told me!” defense…
    And for people who haven’t spent time in very cold climates the clothing advice is also needed. I was very grateful for the clothing advice I got before my first (summer) trip to Poland or I would have completely underpacked (it’s summer! how cold can it get?) and been reduced to trying to find warmer clothes in a communist country during an economic crisis…
    For most people the tone registers as informal but not childish (if anything it sounds like a memo for office workers). Comfy is a very common informal word in the US (like ‘yummy’ for food) that almost everyone uses…


  4. I can’t stand comfy, yummy, wanna, or any of that baby talk. I didn’t like it as a child, which was of course one of the reasons adults felt I was too challenging and didn’t like me, and I don’t like it now, and I don’t regret a thing.

    I went to a Brazilianist conference in Minnesota once, in October. We got a message pointing out that Minnesota in October is already cold, especially for tropical people, and that we should bring clothes we would associate with a U.S. winter, like hats, scarves, and gloves. I found this helpful and charming given the context, but there are limits.


    1. “wanna, or any of that baby talk”

      I hardly think of ‘wanna’ as baby talk, it’s an informal way of writing that is a close representation of what a large majority of Americans actually say (like gonna). In speech, a person who never uses ‘wanna’ and always pronounces ‘want to’ will sound very weird and robot-like.
      Comfy and yummy are probable child terms that migrated to informal adult usage – neoteny in language use as it were, just recent enough to notice (I’m sure that all languages are full of similar child-to-adult language vocabulary and probable structure.


      1. They spell it that way for kids and to be cute / condescending / infantilizing. They also teach some foreigners to write and say this instead of standard forms. I advise against for multiple reasons.


        1. I hate “comfy” in professional communications. What’s next, hubby? Vacay? Cutie pie? I have nothing against any of these in daily communication (although I don’t use them myself) but professional emails? And then we chide students for putting “Hey!” in emails to professors?

          Liked by 1 person

      2. Writing and talking are two different things. Many native English speakers say “wanna” and gonna” not because they’re consciously using those specific words, but simply because they’re saying “want to” or “going to” rapidly, and the two words run together.

        When a person writes “wanna” or “gonna,” they’re deliberately choosing those words to make a point.

        Not the same thing at all.


        1. It’s like students who write “I would of done this” and then proceed to argue that it’s correct because I’m not a native speaker so how can I know better than they do?


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