I happened across this old article about Mister Rogers, and his attention to detail when it came to language. While I experienced growing up with this man and his show, I never knew the degree to which Rogers and his writers toiled over the language.

I never thought about how young children take things quite literally. And in hindsight, the care taken with phrasing and word choice makes a great deal of sense. Having grown up speaking more than one language, having developed an interest in literature and writing – word choices greatly influence how others interpret what we mean.

Hedda Sharapan, one of the staff members at Fred Rogers’s production company, Family Communications, Inc., recalls Rogers once halted taping of a show when a cast member told the puppet Henrietta Pussycat not to cry; he interrupted shooting to make it clear that his show would never suggest to children that they not cry.

The term “Freddish” was something coined by writers Arthur Greenwald and Barry Head, and is an interesting example/distillation of how to convey an idea on the show. As an adult writing this now, I look back on this show with even more admiration, that there were these adults who took such time and care with their words. It’s a reminder to me how powerful language is, in both shaping the world and especially in shaping the world for others.

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