Friday, June 18, 2010

The Opposite of Mother is not Father, Dammit.

One of Caroline's activity books asserts that the opposite of "mother" is "father." Actually, a lot of children's books and toys make mistakes like that. If two things are commonly paired, the designer of the product thinks they are opposites. So salt and pepper are opposites. I've emphasized to Caroline that these people are simply wrong. To be opposites, the member of a pair must cancel each other out. Still, I'm particularly galled by idea that the *opposite* of "mother" is "father."


Jenifer said...

I just generally find most children's books pretty hopeless but it's good your kid hears you challenging what's said in the book. That's really helpful for children to hear an adult thinking out loud.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Walter Chania here,

My 8 year old must have video!
I wouldn't be sure what to tell him about opposites. Seems an identity issue.
Night and day can be seen as opposites--such that when one is, the other is not. One cancels the other.
But also seems to me a case can be made that anything can cancel another thing. That is, if there is an x it can't be anything but an x. If it starts becoming a y or a z it does so by the y or z cancelling out the x. The y and the x cancel each other out.
In this way you could say that
everything potentially cancels everything else, just as night cancels out the day.
So in this way all things are opposites.
But I think one could say--unconventionally-- that night is just a darker form of day
or day a brighter form of night.
Could say dusk is day with some elements of night in it.
If I see a snake at night but find at morning it was a rope,
the rope cancels the snake. Could say they are opposites in this case. OR not.
Seems to be no necessity to how you think about it.
In any case, my child is addicted
--any game anytime.