The omnipresent onomatopoeic beep. The term was first recognized back in 1929, although I’m unsure exactly what beeped back then. Today, beeps are all around us. So much so that we customize our beeps so we can tell our beeps from other people’s beeps.
Which brings us to babies. The cry of a baby is unique in somewhat the same way as a beep. Not so much in how you configure the noise. Most children lack setup screens and the ability to accept mp3 formats. But rather in how you recognize the noise.
If a baby’s cry is heard in a crowd of people, every parent’s brain in the room does a split second analysis to determine whether or not that baby is his or hers. If it is, the parent immediately seeks the child (note: in the event that both parents are present, the reaction may be to hesitate briefly or glare at the spouse in hopes of the other one fetching the kid). however, if the cry doesn’t register in your brain as “your kid”, you instead start scanning the room to see whose kid it is.
Beeps are much the same way. Your brain knows which beeps are yours, and if the beep doesn’t register as your own, you scan the room looking for whose it is. In the event that no one seems to be grabbing for something that beeps your brain then has a secondary reaction and begins to wonder if maybe it really is yours after all. This results in everyone now pulling out and placing all manner of gadgetry up to their ears to see if they are making noise. Then shrugging sheepishly and stashing the device back in their pocket or purse.
I guess this is the point where the analogy breaks down, although seeing a room full of people hoisting successive kids up to their ears looking for the noisy one is a comical visualization.