Linguistics — shifting consumer needs

Have you noticed how language is shifting?

When my two oldest children were little, they said things like, “Ready, set, go,” and “Wait for me!” and “I’ve got to go now, bye!”

Then they got their own computers.

“Ready, set, go,” became, “Ready, play!” since they had latched on to the idea that you press Play to start something. I observed other oddities such as the term, “Wait for me!” shifting to “Pause!”

Much to my amazement, I also heard children on the playground shifting from, “Time to go. Mom’s calling,” to saying, “Time to exit. Mom’s calling.” I cringed when I heard kids say, “Time to quit. Mom’s calling,” because quitting is not ok, yet stopping a computer game is most definitely ok. I knew the game developers (thinking of Sonic in particular) probably had not considered how their choice in terminology would affect child psychology long-term.

Today, I observed something that gave me a glimpse into future product development. My two youngest children were playing Legos with two of their buddies. Their play went like this:

From the 7 year old skateboarder kid: “Hey, I upgraded my jet flyer. Now I have invisibility!”

From the 6 year old electronics geek girl: “My upgrade gave my boosters more power. Ka-boom, whooosh!”

From the visiting friend who was just getting to know our Lego supplies: “I need another upgrade, can I get an upgrade from any of you? Where’d you get those silvery pieces?”

From the other visiting friend with spiky yellow hair and a mischievous grin which makes him look like Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes: “You think your upgrade is good? HA. You don’t know nothin. I upgraded mine to explode!”

I found it interesting that their play revolved around the terminology and concept of upgrades. Perhaps this shift is noticeable to me in my generation since I saw how In the past, the toy selection for kids was not malleable. Batman was just Batman in a cool costume with cool gear. You couldn’t buy extras for him or give him a boost in any way. In contrast, now nearly everything my kids own can be improved, built on, and in a word, upgraded as needed. These kids are aware of and even expect that the things in their environment can be, perhaps must be, improved.

What does this mean for us as consumers and creators? That the days of stagnant playthings is gone. A computer must be upgradable, thus our open hardware warranty. I am watching this play out the same way I watch a movie or some other good story line. Will the open hardware warranty work? It is working wonderfully for now. Will it have longevity?

We will see.


7 Comments Add yours

  1. Ashley says:

    Love this post Cathy – I found it very interesting. Your kids are so cute! The only time I remember computers entering into my play as a child was when we were talking about “Synergy” from Jem. I guess the 80’s were awhile back…

  2. Cindy says:

    Cathy, I think this blog is a great idea. You are a very thoughtful person and I love reading your insights!

  3. Kelly says:

    I’ve also noticed this type of verbal difference in my son’s school work and creative writing. A lot of the jargon he uses is directly from video games. It’s bizarre. Things have changed, but that’s the evolving nature of language, I suppose. By the way, nice job on your blog. Looks great.

  4. Th. says:


    I’m just glad I finally learned how to pronounce pwned.

  5. Jamie says:

    The whole “upgrade” terminology is a very interesting concept. On the one hand it can represent the modularity of everything nowadays, and how efficient we have become, so that we can produce things more efficiently, though it often is just a tactic used my corporations to charge you individually for each little bit you want to “upgrade”. Also, upgrading has really left the whole modularity aspect behind, and now rather than being able to upgrade a single part of something, they now force you to upgrade the entire piece, making it less of an “upgrade” and more of a replacement.

    Very interesting.

  6. Kelly J. says:

    You are so GREAT! I am impressed. You are a “DO-ER” and just keep taking the bull by the horns and wrestling him to the ground! Keep it up- looking forward to seeing what you do next!

  7. MindyHymas says:

    Kids really view the world entirely different than we did. I’d never thought of how our language is changing. Very interesting and such a keen observation!

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