In March, 1993, LeAlan Jones, thirteen, and Lloyd Newman, fourteen, collaborated with public radio producer David Isay to create the radio documentary Ghetto Life 101, their audio diaries of life on Chicago’s South Side. The boys taped for ten days, walking listeners through their daily lives: to school, to an overpass to throw rocks at cars, to a bus ride that takes them out of the ghetto, and to friends and family members in the community.
Anne Fernald explains our need to goochie-goochie-goo at every baby we meet, and absolves us of our guilt. This kind of talk, dubbed motherese, is an instict that crosses cultural and linguistic boundaries. Caecilius was goochie-goochie-gooing in Rome; Grunt was goochie-gooing in the caves. We at Radiolab did our own study of infant-directed speech, recording more than a dozen different parents. The melodies of these recordings illustrate Fernald’s findings that there are a set of common tunes living within the words that parents all over the world intone to their babies.