Thursday, December 20, 2012


Dogs, Babies, and the Process of Learning to Generalize

The other day, the baby lurched clumsily across the floor to our large bag of dog food, from which she usually successfully extracts two or three pieces of high-quality low-residue kibble a day. This time, she paused and scrutinized the illustration on the front. She touched it, and said: "dawwwwww?"

Yes! we said. Dawwwwwwg.

She looked confused. Then she walked to the bed and craned her head up until she made eye contact with our actual dog. "Dawwwwwwww?"

Yes! we said. Dawwwwwwg.

And then she went back to the bag, and hugged it. And we were all THIS IS HOW MALCOLM MCDOWELL FELT WHEN HE ENTERED THE NEXUS IN STAR TREK: GENERATIONS.

So, here's the thing. We talk a lot about the problems of over-generalization. There are a bunch of them! I don't think I've ever said "under-generalization" in my life, yet we all have to weather it while we learn which things are the same as other things. There are dogs and dogs and dogs and dogs and dogs, and a noob to this world would not necessarily believe that a wolfhound is a chihuahua is a Great Dane, but they are, like many prickly or soft or peel-y things are fruit, and we all figured it out, and it's no less amazing just because it was a while back, so good for you, knowing which things are fruit and which things are dawwwwwwwgs.

And that's what being a parent is like right now, and, conceptually, it's pretty neat.

136 Comments / Post A Comment

Faintly Macabre

This is wonderful, but I would like the dog's reflections on the experience of finally being recognized by waddlingnoisecreature.


@Faintly Macabre Recognition is nothing next to the day the baby learns how to pat.


@iceberg Our cat loved our baby up until the day she discovered that petting* the kitty is the BEST! EVER! ...now she loves her, but keeps a wide berth.

*Smacking her on the flank and grabbing her fur while squealing. She's less than a year old, she hasn't quite learned "gentle, GENTLE WITH THE KIT...aw hell, sorry cat."

Lila Fowler

I still have a hard time telling what things are fruits and what things are vegetables. I mean people keep telling me that avocados and tomatoes are fruit, but they feel like vegetables. I'm sure that's part of the Official Scientific Fruit Definition: "Avocado presents all the characteristics of a fruit, but doesn't FEEL like a fruit. Please reclassify immediately."


@Lila Fowler The avocado is actually a nut.

Heat Signature

@mlle.gateau Christ.


@Heat Signature Strangers With Candy 4 Life!

"I know what you are saying, "Avocado is not a fruit". You think it's a vegetable. Well, Mr. Produce Man, technically, it's a nut."


@Lila Fowler One of these days I'll figure out if squashes count as fruit or not. Because they seem to fit the same role, at least biologically, but foodwise? Maybe the zucchini comes close, but it's still more like a tomato or cucumber in that it seems to like eating a vegetable.


@Lila Fowler Here's the thing: fruit is a biological classification, and vegetable is a nutritional classification. So anything that has seeds in it is the "fruit" of the plant that grew it. So, eggplants and squashes are fruit. Also, eggplants are berries, and strawberries are not berries.

amateur hour

@Poubelle Yes. Technically, anything that comes from a flower is a fruit. So that includes peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, and many other vegetables.


@mlle.gateau "And it's delicious!"

amateur hour

@highfivesforall Totally better explanation, good job.


@highfivesforall What finally put me mind to ease about all this nonsense was learning about the idea of a "culinary fruit" and a "culinary vegetable." Eff wut ya herd about science's classifications when it comes to cooking, the tastebuds have their own ideas.


@amateur hour But I think yours is more accurate, re: flowers v. seeds.

@Emby Yeah, that's the distinction you need to make - scientifically and historically, vegetable just means any plant matter at all, which means that biological fruit is both fruit and vegetable. But that's not a very useful definition, and it's not what the people who made the food pyramid meant, so people who go around saying "You know, technically, tomatoes are fruit," without having any followup information, can just suck it.

Also, apparently, different cultures have different ideas about the culinary vegetable.


Peanut... hazelnut... cashew nut... macadamia nut... avocado nut...


@highfivesforall ow my head

Lila Fowler

@Heat Signature Oh no! aaah

Lila Fowler

@highfivesforall But do schnozzberries taste like schnozzberries?


@mlle.gateau My internal pedantic botanist would like to note that a.) The avocado seed coat dehisces and b.)it is not hard or impermeable.

It's a berry, not a nut!



(<3 u bootsandcatsie)


I learned in science class that what's happening here is that your mini-person is just finally developing the ability to recognize which objects adhere to which ideal Forms. Plato would be proud.


THIS. This is what I am looking forward to about having a kid.


Yup. This is the only thing that ever really appealed to me about the idea, and makes me a little sad that I'll never get to experience it.
Because as a sciencey-minded person, how cool is that?! Watching a human grow and learn and develop in real time? Coolest experiment ever.
Until you break it. Because you always will, somehow. That's my consolation, I guess.


@NeverOddOrEven I'm really hoping it's like an experiment. I'm a people-watcher by nature anyway, so it's going to just fuel that instinct even more.
And breaking it is ok - we all learned how to deal with being broken at some point. It's just going to be hard to accept that I did that, too, and not just the good stuff.

Porn Peddler

I am around two children of about 19 months of age, and I regularly watch them learn words and names before my eyes and it BLOWS MY MIND EVERY TIME.


When I was little, we had a German Shepherd named Kaiser. He was apparently my best friend in the world and I couldn't pronounce his name, so I called him Animals. Strangely, all other dogs were Doggies; only Kaiser was Animals. Every morning, I'd toddle down the stairs yelling "Animals! Time for your vite-a-mins!" and my mom would let me give him his pill.

My most traumatizing early memory is when we gave Kaiser away to another family because my mom had just had my sister and couldn't handle two kids under 3 and a dog with my dad away flying all the time.

Miss you, Animals :(


That is adorable and sad.
I apparently called all animals "peep peeps" for a while. I guess I liked birds?
My favorite though is when my cousin thought chipmunks were bugs and was terrified of them.


Weirdly unrelated, but heeeeeeeey! Is that the prescription Hills Diet stuff?? The vet just put my cat on the prescription Hills food for her urinary troubles a couple of weeks ago, and THE SMELL OF THAT FOOD IS BRUTAL. And we live in an approximately one square foot apartment, so that stinky prescription cat food is beginning the permeate the whole place! MY GOD THE STENCH. THE STEEEEEEEENCH.

(This comment comes from the Department of Entirely Missing the Point of Above Post.)

fondue with cheddar

@werewolfbarmitzvah Your userpic reminds me of this video which I have watched at least once every day this week.


@fondue with cheddar I want to be that ecstatic about everything I eat.


@werewolfbarmitzvah in other news, is that a new pic? Or did I just never notice the adorable dog before?

fondue with cheddar

@RubeksCube "I wish I liked anything as much as my kids like bubbles."


@theotherginger Nope, I'm all Business Corgi all the time!


@werewolfbarmitzvah "Business Corgi all the time" is my new motto.

fondue with cheddar

@werewolfbarmitzvah Business Corgi sounds like a great idea for a toy!

BUSINESS CORGI™ PLAYSET comes with everything you see here:
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@werewolfbarmitzvah All catfood is the rankest thing in the world. Have you tried transferring it to an airtight container like a tin, though? And giving your apartment to your cat and just pitching a tent on the roof for you to sleep in? Both of those would probably help.


@werewolfbarmitzvah Is the offending food wet or dry? If it's wet (canned), keep all of it in the fridge, it helps. If you have to split cans, get one of those handy little rubber can lids, saves a lot of aggravation and plastic wrap.

If it's dry, get an airtight container and keep it in a dedicated closet, if possible. Ceding the apartment to your cat and its food is also a viable option.

fondue with cheddar

Sometimes dogs are brown.

superfluous consonants

@fondue with cheddar this lady who spends much of her time with kindergartners FELL OFF THE COUCH laughing the first time she heard that.

fondue with cheddar

@superfluous consonants :)

Heat Signature

Moments like this totally trump all of the other times when your child is driving you up the wall, completely draining you of energy and leaving you an empty shell of your former self. Not even joking here.


@Heat Signature If you (or any other Pinner-breeders) find yourself feeling this way, you should immediately go out and buy and read a copy of "Operating Instructions" by Annie Lamott. (You know, in your spare time.)

Daisy Razor

@Heat Signature It's true. Watching a person's humanity develop before your eyes makes the 24/7 demands bearable.

I asked Baby Razor yesterday what she thought Santa had heard about her this year and she said, "Um, I think I've been a little bit bad, but I've been mostly good." I know adults who don't have that level of self awareness.

Um, WTF Interrobang

@Heat Signature So so so true. My younger kid is a handful, but the moment she pointed at a picture of Charles Manson on the TV and yelled "Daddy!!" made up for at least three months worth of aggravation.


@Um, WTF Interrobang dying dying dead


@Daisy Razor The eight-year-old I give art lessons to just wrote her letter to Santa demanding that their Elf on the Shelf be put on the naughty list. Kids+Christmas=the best maybe.

Heat Signature

@Daisy Razor My oldest son's first word was "Mama", which he said on Mother's Day I am not even kidding right now.


@Heat Signature Aaaah! Earlier this week, my 11 month old pointed at a picture of Donald Trump and said "Dad?" No. No he is not.


@Heat Signature omg yes. One Saturday morning when my daughter was 2, she had miraculously let me sleep in and was patiently lying in bed with me waiting for me to wake up, so the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes were her big blue eyes, and she immediately exclaimed "Hello, love!" And the first thing I thought was "Wow, those 6 months I spent throwing up while I was pregnant were totally, completely worth it."

miss buenos aires

@Heat Signature At Thanksgiving, my 3-year-old nephew looked at my aunt's 60-something white doorman and said, "Obama?"


@Um, WTF Interrobang late to the party, but I feel you should know that I went through a phase of thinking "father" meant "man."

...my mom really enjoyed taking me to the grocery store, where I'd eye every guy we passed & then tentatively say "father?" while looking back at her for affirmation.

(also, <3 your username. interrobangs are the best.)


This cuteness is the perfect way to start my day.


My baby just realized he had feet, & is punching himself in the face less, which of course are great and accomplishments, but I am looking forward to this slightly more advanced stuff.

Porn Peddler

@hallelujah reading hairpin comments at work is always a mistake. CHOKING RN.


When I was living in Kenya, I was holding the two year old girl who lived on my compound, and we were looking at a cow. I was still learning Swahili and she was still learning language in general, and so I would often practice my Swahili with her as she was unlikely to judge me. "Cow, ng'ombe," I said. "Here is the cow. The cow lives hapa. The cow lives here." She didn't say anything, but then, that night, she called me "Hapa," which is the Swahili word for "here," and she continued calling me by that name for the next six months. It pleases me to no end to imagine that while I thought I was teaching her animal words, she concluded that we were standing around introducing ourselves to the cow.


@Kristen Because why wouldn't you? I love this. Baby logic is the best logic.


@Kristen Somewhat in that vein, my parents live next door to three small boys, the middle one of which is obsessed with their dog (THE BEST DOGGIE IN THE WORLD). When the boys would want to come pet him, they'd always give the dog the command to sit ("Sit, Buddy*!") and the wee boy got it into his head that the dog's name was SitBuddy.

*Names have been changed to protect the anonymity of canines with distinctive names.

The Hyperbolic Julia Set

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher There was a family at my parents' church that had a little girl who was so cute! She noticed that people tended to say "Amen" before they shut up and sat down, so she started yelling "Amen" at people/inanimate objects when she wanted them to stop making noise.

Also! When my older sister was little she saw that people would always crouch down to get in pictures with her so she would crouch down too. We have all of these baby pictures of different adults and my sister crouching in random places.

Yay baby logic!

superfluous consonants

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher yes combination words! my brother was born when I was almost 15, and when he was learning most of his words, my best friend and I were spending about 95% of our time together. So much time together that he decided we were both called a combination of our names: "SuperfluousFriend"! (Whoops, that sounds sad. She was not superfluous!)


LOVE those moments when you feel like you can see their brains growing in front of you. Adding words to their mental toolboxes is super fun (except when your toddler starts dropping F bombs).


@iceberg I cannot tell you what a relief it was when one of mine learned "Carry", so she could stop screaming and throwing a fit instead of just asking to be carried.


@iceberg For whatever reason, I always used "Upping!" as the command to be carried as a child.

Good thing I was cute?


@iceberg My phrase was "Carry you?" (obviously derived from "Would you like me to...[]").


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher & @sprayfaint - You are both adorable. I tried to make "Uppies" happen but it didn't catch on. "Carry" stuck for some reason, so we're going with it.

de Pizan

@iceberg One of my nieces did the same thing, it was "I wanna carry you" for when she wanted to be picked up. Or alternately, it was "hold you" for when she wanted to be held.


@iceberg My sister would always ask "Sit in my lap?" when she wanted to sit in your lap.


So, about different kinds of dogs: what if people came in that many different sizes?? How crazy would that be? I think about this a lot.


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll I think we used to? Or there were pygmys and stuff, right? On Australia and in the jungles? But you know, disease and also our inability to stop boning each other for 5 seconds evened us all out.
Also did you know that something like 90% of the dog breeds that exist today didn't exist 100 years ago? I get a little creeped out when I think about how much time humans have spend concerning themselves with dog boning.

....boning. (three times!)


@annev6 yeah I think dog breeds are almost artificially diverse because of how much we get them to inbreed, I bet if we just left them to their own devices they'd all be mutts and get much closer. (see recent comments on the Pin re corgi/German Shepherd mixes!!!)

Lily Rowan

@iceberg Now I'm creeping myself out thinking about what if it were really Strongly Encouraged that (say) short white people with blonde curly hair only had sex with other short white people with blond hair. Creepy.


@Lily Rowan This is creepy and oddly fascinating. Are there any dystopian novels out there to this effect?


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher If not, meliiiiiiis!


@Lily Rowan Obviously, as the Germans discovered mid-20th century, this is a very dangerous slippery slope to go down, but it's pretty fascinating as a purely hypothetical train of thought. Specifically for me, the time thing is fascinating. Like, how many generations would it take before the smallest of humans procreating with each other produced significantly smaller humans? What other genetic byproducts might result? (i.e. the Russian foxes that were bred for docility and ended up being predominately one color) Per @annev6's comment above, it only took about a century to produce the incredible variety of dog breeds. Could we end up with that scale of variety with humans in, say, double that time? Who knows!

Lily Rowan

@SuperGogo Oh yeah, the time thing is a big one. People can see many generations of dogs. To really be interesting, there would have to be a [something] that could see many generations of people.

Faintly Macabre

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll Have you read the National Geographic article on dogs from a few years back? They talk about just that! "If human beings mirrored the size range of dogs, the smallest of us might weigh 20 pounds and the largest a ton."

Here's the article--long but interesting!


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll I think about this sometimes-- how people think of different dog breeds as having different behavioral traits-- "good with kids" "yippy" "loyal to owners", etc. And I think "what if humans in different regions were the same way, evolving into those that look somewhat alike and have some of the same traits?" And then I think-- it's probably not ok to be thinking this...


When my niece began to recognize actual things, she kind of merged me and my dog into one mutant creature, referring to us both as "AuDog" (AU being the way the first syllable of my name sounds). Her standard greeting to me to this day is still "Hey Ialgadorth where your dog??" with no commas.


Nicole, this is probably the best explanation of the signifier/signified I've ever read in a single paragraph, and I studied that shit for a good while.

Also, I just read The Bean Trees (by Kingsolver) and it made me appreciate kids in a whole new way. Everyone, go read it! Now!


More people need to be talking about how adorable your dog is. Seriously, that is one good-looking dog. I want to rub his ears and talk baby talk to him.

Valley Girl

@Renleigh Heh, that reminds me of how my biggest transition from pet parent to actual parent will be knocking off the baby talk.


@Renleigh Such a beautiful dog! And that FACE! Oh man. I keep just clicking back to look at him.


Funnily enough, my first word was "dog", but for a long time I applied it to everything, not just dogs. Fruit? "DOG!" Dog? "DOG!" Truck? "DOG!

My feeling is that I was probably just hoping that the truck might turn out to be a dog, because to this day I really really really like dogs.


@paddlepickle My little dude loves the shit out of cars but it took us a lot of effort to get him to differentiate between trucks and cars. Even now he says "cahhh" for cars and "cuh!" with a sort of glottal stop at the end for trucks.


@iceberg At least he's in the general "vehicle" category! Definitely don't worry about it, considering I had trouble differentiating trucks from small mammals and I've somehow managed to end up with a college degree and all ;)

frumious bandersnatch

@paddlepickle My first word was also dog and I also called everything that moved a dog. (I don't think inanimate objects got that treatment, though.) It's apparently pretty common. My younger brother's first word was "thank you" (more like "tank-oo") which is infinitely more precious and I am jealous.


@paddlepickle A friend's baby brother did that with "door". The problem was he'd also learnt to dial 999 fairly early, so on a fairly regular basis he'd get at the phone and hold conversations that went "Police, fire, or ambulance?" "DOOR" ad infinitum.


I used to babysit for a little boy who was around 1. I loved to watch him solve problems. You could almost see the thought process in his eyes. It was great.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

I really love the idea of a baby hugging a bag of dog food. Those little buggers have so much love to give.


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Yeah, me too. In my mind, at that exact moment, Tiny Tim pops out from behind Nicole's coat rack and pipes "God Bless Us, Every One!".

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@wee_ramekin And then the PS 22 chorus comes in and starts singing "O Holy Night" or something else that gives me goosebumps.


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Oh man. Children's choirs make me tear up every time. They could be singing "Trapped in the Closet" and I would still be cryin'.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@wee_ramekin Did you see PS 22 singing the Sandy Hook Elementary school song today? I was weeping.



All little kids assume Darwin is a puppy cuz he's short. He'd probably be offended but he loves kidlet's little dirty faces too much.

Ramona Cleary@twitter

@Megano! What IS he?! Besides adorable. Corgi? Duck toller?


@Ramona Cleary@twitter Darwin's a Pembroke Welsh Corgi.


One of my best friends has a 14 month old son whom I adore and get to spend lots of time with. He's recently started hugging (like, actually run up to you and hug you, oh god, its too much) and kissing people, although his kisses so far are just putting his lips to your cheek and going "MUAH!" but god, watching him learn all this stuff is so beyond cool. Sometimes when I'm hanging out with him I try and get work done on the computer (and comment on hairpin) and I've learned to type and hold him at once. He started doing this thing where, if I'm paying attention to work more than him, he goes "woo?" and takes my face in his hands and forces to me to make eye contact with him, like he's asking what I'm doing or something. Amazing. I am buying him Superman pajamas for Christmas because he is the coolest and he has more than earned his cape.


@katiemcgillicuddy Haha this is the greatest.

My girls held hands yesterday for the first time and it was the fucking cutest thing I've ever seen, they just toddled along holding hands for like five minutes. Also all of them make everythign kiss - dollies, teddy bears, cars, sippy cups. It's ridic.

The Hyperbolic Julia Set

Anybody else STILL have those moments where suddenly you make sense of something that was previously too hard to grasp and you feel supremely proud like when you were a kid? Because that happened to me the other day.

(and ditto to the comments about how your dog and the post are super adorable.)


Nicole, I must know: Does the "Oxford commas" tag mean there was editorial infighting about your title?? If so, I must state for the record that I'm Team Oxford Comma.

superfluous consonants



@SuperGogo I second!


@SuperGogo One of the profs who used to work in my department had the JFK and Stalin picture on his door. I miss him.


@anachronistique BRB, sending that to everyone I've ever met.


@SuperGogo I didn't know that this was called an Oxford Comma and I had no idea this was even a debate?
During my time at school, if anyone ever did a list the non-Oxford-comma way, it was simply marked as incorrect. End of story.


@TARDIStime WHERE is this magical place?


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher
Australia (NSW)?
It might have something to do with being part of the British Commonwealth (the Queen's English and all that), but that's just a guess.


@SuperGogo Seriously non-Oxford comma-ing MAKES NO SENSE.


So late to this, but count me in! Oxford Commas are what I was taught and what makes sense to me.
I did just learn, however, that you're supposed to use two "dashes" (is that the technical term? Doubt it) rather than one. As in blablabla -- dadada vs. blablabla - dadada.
What the hell? Why?

frumious bandersnatch

@SuperGogo OK I've lurked forever and I finally made an account just to lecture about punctuation I'M SORRY.

The double dash is called an em-dash, because it is the width of the letter m, whereas the single dash is an en-dash. You use em-dashes to set apart a phrase--like maybe one that you want to emphasize more than with commas--and en-dashes to indicate a range of values. (e.g., This post is moderately - extremely annoying.) Not to be confused with hyphens, which are slightly shorter than en-dashes and connect two words. The why is different visual cues for the reader.

For shits and giggles, go to Word and type some hyphenated word (let's go with "over-zealous"), then a range (but you have to put spaces around the dash, like "1 - 2"), then "word--word" to see how it autocorrects the various lengths. (You do have to type and hit space or enter after each so that it does its autocorrect thing.)



@frumious bandersnatch YOU ARE MY NEW FAVORITE.

Partially for the username (yessss!) and partially because I NEVER KNEW WHY IT WAS CALLED AN EM-DASH. Today I Learned!


@frumious bandersnatch
That makes FAR more sense. Thank you!
One question though -- Is there an en-dash as well as a hyphen on the keyboard or is it something Word does automatically? I had no idea they were different.


See what I did up there? ^^
I can learn!

frumious bandersnatch

@NeverOddOrEven There is but one, and it plays the roles of hyphen, dash, and minus sign (which is, I think, supposed to be slightly longer than a dash isn't this fun guys??)

Let's all read the wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dash

(Sorry my first comment was to SuperGogo; I am still learning this.)


@frumious bandersnatch
No worries, it's weird like that. If you hit "reply" when you're not logged in, then log in, it automatically makes the reply to the original poster for some reason.


Nicole yr dog (and story) are devastatingly adorable but I am always wishing for pictures of your matchless Progeny. Her eyebrows! And chubby cheeks! Has there been a Moratorium and I missed the memo?


@ru_ri Nicole posted a letter to her daughter on the 'pin saying that she was no longer going to write about her on here because she felt it would be unfair to do that to someone who isn't capable of making her own decisions about what's shared on the internet about her life (yet).
I can't find it now - Halp me 'pinners!


@TARDIStime Ah, thank you. I had a feeling that the dearth of photos was not an oversight.


My first word was "bird", and I was pointing at a fly resting on a window at the time, so I sympathize with yr baby


My nephew apparently demonstrated the concept of having a baby sister by putting his little stuffed dog next to the family's big patient Chow mix, pointing at the two of them together, and saying "Baby! Big! Twoooo!" Precious CHILD.

Genghis Khat

My friend's two year old daughter thinks I'm Madeline from the books. (My name sounds a bit like Madeline.) It is adorbs beyond beyond belief.


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