Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Bravo to Leapfrog for Curbing My Inner Adolescence

I really must give kudos to the men and women at Leapfrog for not letting their products become the devil's playtool.

Recently I was sitting with my son reading books when he accidentally bumped this leapfrog caterpillar we own. It is green, about a foot and a half long, and meant to teach children the alphabet. On each of the caterpillar's feet there is letter that, depending on which setting you have it on, will sound out its name when pressed. The toy was set to make letter sounds, and when my son bumped it, a series of letter sounds came out that almost sounded like a word.

Thinking I had discovered new depth to an otherwise annoying toy, I grabbed it and punched the letters "H" - "I" to test what I heard. Sure enough, when the sounds came out, I had created the word "Hi". After trying with varying success one or two more harmless words, my inner adolescent voice gave me an idea. "Why not try naughty words."

My first couple of attempts were thwarted, however, because the caterpillar is incapable of making certain vowel sounds. I thought this might just be coincidence, but now I'm not so sure. When I finally punched in a series of letter sounds that should have given a satisfying response, the caterpillar made the first sound, paused, and said, "HA HA HA, that tickles" before making the final sound (and delivering the result I was waiting for). I'd never heard the caterpillar say "HA HA HA, that tickles" after pressing the buttons so, I proceeded to press a bunch of random buttons. Nothing but letter sounds came out. Then I tried the previous combination of buttons again and sure enough, "HA HA HA, That tickles".

I can't believe it, the good folks at caterpillar took the time to think up a bunch of letter combinations that would create inappropriate words and block them. Very very smart.

So far my wife and I have identified 8 words that are blocked.

A side note to this story:
For a while now my wife and I have argued about whether the word "Piss" is inappropriate. Not the verb, the expletive. While the caterpillar allows "B" "U" "T", it doesn't allow "P" "I" "S". This I feel gives my wife ground in our debate.


At 9/13/2006 04:51:00 PM,

There is an episode of the simpsons where Homer gets a similar toy and uses it to call his boss and say he can't come to work. Bummer about the dirty words though, that could be interesting, but I bet I could think of a few things for it to say.

Leapfrog also makes a killer globe that when you touch it you can get tons of facts about the country (music, food, national anthem, etc.). It also lets you play a cool country or state finding game. keeps me entertained for hours whenever I go to my parents house.

At 9/13/2006 05:25:00 PM,

I have heard that toy companies will take their talking spell toys of this sort and hand them over to a bunch of 13 year olds, who naturally attempt every crude or vulgar expression imaginable, and then they disable the ability of the toy to use them.
Use of adolescents to do your dirty work, now that is real genius. 

Posted by Doc

At 9/13/2006 08:00:00 PM,

You have given me hope that maybe my husband is normal.

At 9/14/2006 05:37:00 PM,

My mom would say it is... she'd rank it right up there with "suck" and "screw"

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