The Laughing Baby in 14 quotes

Each chapter of my book The Laughing Baby starts with a short quote or epigram. I was very pleased with these and so a few years ago I posted them all as a thread on Twitter (remember Twitter?). They give a nice summary of the book so I’ve recreated the list here. Enjoy.


“Babies are such a nice way to start people”

Don Herold

Even Hamlet wouldn’t disagree with that.

Chapter One: A Time Before Smiles

JM Barrie might be right about fairies. Although the scientific evidence is limited. And if there was a time before smiles it was a long time ago.

Chapter Two: Happy Birthday.

“The first thing newborn babies do is cry because their parents haven’t bothered to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to them.”

It’s funny, but is it true? What did you do at the birth of yours?

Chapter Three: The Simple Pleasures.

A quote from the short and wonderful book Making Babies by Irish writer Anne Enright.

Chapter Four: SLEEP!?

A lyrical quote from Bengali Nobel Prizewinner Rabindranath Tagore. Most of his observations of babies were rose-tinted. One gets the sense that, even though Tagore had five children, someone else was usually left holding the baby.

Chapter Five: First Touch

“Never miss an opportunity to hold a baby”

Mary Ainsworth.

Advice on infant bonding from Mary Ainsworth is like advice on chess from Gary Kasparov. Just do it, OK?

Chapter Six: Tickling, Tumbling and Toe-Nibbling.

This chapter starts off with rats, Elmo and the worlds most ancient joke. It finishes trying to vanquish Cartesian dualism. I wasn’t expecting to have two chapters on touch. It must be the influence of my old boss Andy Bremner.


Chapter Seven: The Joys of Toys

Is all about what babies learn from all the playing they do. And along the way, it tells the story of what happened when Cheltenham Science Festival asked me to put on a science show for an audience of babies.

Chapter Eight: Surprise!

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity”

Ellen Parr (not Dorothy Parker as some people might tell you.)

“Babies love surprises. Except when they don’t.”

Me (I was quite pleased with that line so hopefully it’s original.)
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Chapter Nine: Laugh and the World Laughs with You.

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”

Victor Borge

The heart of the book and the best quote on what laughter really means.

Chapter Ten: The Sound of Happy

This one’s all about music. It includes a strong argument that baby opera was the first art form, some drumming from Sinead Rocha and narrates the tale of how Lauren Stewart and I helped Imogen Heap create The Happy Song.

Chapter Eleven: Happy Talk

Haiku #2107 from Calvin Olsen’s Ten Thousand Haiku The birth of words including some of my own research with Denis Mareschal and Bob French.
Oh & by the way..
Yay – Nim Chimpsky
Boo – Noam Chomsky

Chapter Twelve: Yes, No, Maybe, Baby

All about the concepts you can build once you have language. The theory gets a bit abstract as we end up interrogating Wittgenstein (early AND late). But the experiments are quite straightforward. Even a baby would understand them.

Chapter Thirteen: Friends.

I had wanted to quote lyrics from the Friends theme tune but you wouldn’t believe how expensive that would have been. Waay more than the £70 we paid using those 12 words of Wittgenstein in the previous chapter.
So I went with Anon.
Good ol’ Anon.


Epilogue: Laughing Matters.

We made it. Let’s celebrate with a “poem” by me. You can see me “perform” it here at TEDx Bratislava in 2017. The first time I came on stage my mic was turned off so I had perform it twice. Hence the big cheer.

The poem later became the basis for the text of Babies Laugh at Everything.

Congratulations on making it all the way to the end of this post. If you’d like to buy the book, then follow the links on this page. If you’d like to buy a signed copy, drop me an email.

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