An accent waiting to happen

Image of Thomas the Tank Engine and a toddler talking to each other with American slang in the speech bubbles.

As I alluded to in a recent post, Dylan has started to pick up a bit of a transatlantic twang thanks to certain films and cartoons that he watches rather a lot. It was just the repetition of odd phrases at first, but he’s now experimenting with his pronunciation of other words in a different accent. And much as I love colloquialisms, I have to admit that the American drawl that is invading his vocabulary is starting to bother me.

When he’s annoyed, he either sings the lyric “You greedy dirtbag!” from The Lorax – which, by the way, is a wonderful film that I think highly of – or says “Reach for the sky” in the same menacing way that Woody does when scaring the living shit out of Sid in the first Toy Story film – which, by the way, I once thought was a wonderful film, until I saw it for the 97th time. Both with heavy accents. He also refers to groups of inanimate objects as “these guys” and has taken to calling me “big buddy”. I have no idea where that one came from.

I know it’s our own fault in part. Although we gently correct him every time he sounds like he’s from West Side Story or Deliverance – it varies from day to day – we’ve inadvertently reinforced it by getting him an educational tablet for Christmas which, of course, is voiced almost entirely by Americans. In the case of the Toy Story cartridge he was given so as not to feel left out on Xander’s birthday, it’s fair enough but why something as quintessentially English as Thomas the Tank Engine has to sound like he’s from the States is both beyond me and intensely annoying.

We also have a training toilet that plays music, sings and congratulates toddlers on their progress. And yes, that’s in American too. It wasn’t advertised as such, of course. One of the lyrics is “going potty’s just so great”; now I’m lucky enough not to have had mental health issues, but I’m pretty sure that our definition of ‘going potty’ is anything but ‘great’. So you can add things getting lost in translation to the irritation too. 

This probably sounds like I haven’t got much time for our American cousins, far from it; without them we wouldn’t have The Walking Dead – which I sometimes love more than life itself – Terry Gilliam, Converse, the BritMums community – of course! – Bob Dylan and arrogantly big pizzas to name but a few things I love. It’s just that I want my children to speak how we speak. If I were American, I’d be just as irritated if my kids sounded like they were from Downton Abbey!

I suppose we should have seen this all coming from day one – he was born on Independence Day and has an Uncle Sam.

What do you think? Am I on my own here, or do you get irritated by such things too?

Comments

  1. Sarah Miles

    My children call jaguars ‘Jag-waars’ and talk about ‘trash’. In an american accent. I blame bloody Nick Jnr.

    I also notice that whenever they ‘put on a show’ it is in American accents. In fact, as a teacher I have noticed that in school too, when we do dramatisations of the 10 Plagues of Egypt. Moses was clearly one step away from Phineas and Ferb.

    As for electronic toys that say ‘Good Job’ well, you know where they can go! In the trash.

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      Tom

      Yes, Nick Jnr seems to be the root of the problem in our house too. Phineas and Ferb is something I’ve yet to experience – sounds like the woe it will cause will be of biblical proportions. 😉

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      Tom

      Oh yes, I forgot all about the pronunciation of names! One of the characters in The Lorax is called Audrey. Dylan refuses to believe that we don’t pronounce it ‘Arrrrdreeee’ over here. I despair!

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      Tom

      You’re not wrong. I think we’re just all going to have to throw away our televisions. That’ll show ’em! 😉

  2. Kath

    I must confess I did giggle at the “big buddy” bit. But you do have a good point and this very subject did cross my mind this weekend. Our TV broke (it hadn’t really broken, it was a fuse, but I left to the husband to fix it 😉 ). My son, TT, wanted to watch Thomas and I decided to let him watch it on my laptop and YouTube. It was quite disturbing to hear Thomas speaking in an American accent on some of the clips I found, and I was quite relieved that although I would personally like to ceremoniously burn our DVD of King of the Rails, the characters do at least have a very British accent – “Cinders and ashes!”

    However, I’m guessing that this is going to change though as he’s recently got into the film Cars….

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      Tom

      It’s really disconcerting hearing Thomas with a different accent isn’t it? Dylan’s getting into Cars too and I have to confess I really don’t like it – but that’s probably more down to the fact I have no interest in driving rather than the accents!

  3. Jonathan

    I really enjoyed reading this and found the topic of accents really interesting. I was born in Dundee, home of the Beano and its famous character Dennis the Menace. I also found it weird to see that in the Dennis the Menace cartoon on TV, Dennis didn’t speak with a Scottish accent.

    Living in Wales now, it’s kind of funny thinking that all of people in the UK may me unaware that certain well-known kids’ TV shows were initially made in Welsh for S4C before the English language versions were done. I’m thinking of programmes like Fireman Sam and Super Ted,

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      Tom

      Cheers Jonathan. I knew the Beano was from Dundee but had never made the connection with the cartoon getting it wrong. Didn’t know about the S4C stuff either – that’s fascinating and some very useful pub quiz knowledge to keep up my sleeve to boot. Thank you! 🙂

  4. Me and the tiny 3

    I can remember when I was at primary school, my teacher complaining that we were all talking Australian and going up an octave at the end of every sentence. Neighbours and home and away got the blame, but that seems to be the norm now. American will eventually blend in so we don’t notice the difference unfortunately!
    Mine don’t talk with an American accent but then again they get accused of talking posh because they talk like the cbeebies characters and presenters.

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      Tom

      Who accuses them of sounding posh? There’s a great variety of regional accents on CBeebies and I wouldn’t call any of them posh! Good for your kids; tell them to keep it up. 🙂

  5. Leanne @suggys.co.uk/Leanne

    Hehe… I feel bad that this made be giggle …. my boys are 9 and 6 years, so now at home we get comments they use in school “ALOT!”

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  6. Zena's Suitcase

    When my 16 yo son was little, he started to pick up the local accent where we live. It’s very lazy, and everyone drops their H’s. He grew out of it! Americanism’s do seem to penetrate our English consciousness a lot though, and in our house ‘Daddy is Awesome!’ #PoCoLo

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      Tom

      I have to confess that ‘awesome’ is a word that was alive and well in our house long before we had kids, so I can’t blame anyone but myself for that one! 🙂

  7. Honest Mum

    Love this and totally relate as so much media content is American so influences our kids quite deeply-my son even asks me to impersonate Elsa from Frozen with a US accent!

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      Tom

      Ah, Frozen… everyone I know is talking about it but I have so far managed to avoid it. I’m not bad at avoiding things either – I still haven’t heard Gangnam Style! 😉

  8. Merlinda (@pixiedusk)

    I am having a bit of a problem with accents & words too. I am more exposed to american english than British so when I talk its more american words and letters (my alphabet ends with Z and my husband who is british ends with zed). But I think it is making my son more flexible this early =) #pocolo

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      Tom

      That must be tricky for all concerned, but I guess your son has the best of both worlds as a result. 🙂

  9. Verily Victoria Vocalises

    I am SO with you on all of this!! Firstly, why on earth have they made Thomas the Tank Engine American?! I am finding it hard enough having moved to Somerset and now Grace pronounces ‘dance’ differently to those from Surrey! But she also watches ‘Jessie’ and talks about butts (bottoms not cigarettes!!). I am also SO, SO with you on The Walking Dead. I love that show..er, I mean programme! Thank you for linking to PoCoLo 🙂

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      Tom

      I have no idea why they’ve done this to Thomas. I’m sure he “feels terrible” several times a day about it though. 😉

  10. Kelly S

    As an American, living in America, married to an Englishman (West Midlands), I’d be perfectly happy to have our child grow up speaking Britmerican. (He’s only 9 months and not talking yet.) He loves watching Thomas, Peppa Pig, and other English children’s shows.
    My only concerns are when he starts school. Some of the English may be seen as wrong, for example the last letter of the alphabet is Zee not Zed.

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      Tom

      Thanks Kelly. Yes, we all want our children to fit in with their peers so I see why that’s a concern. I’m sure your little one will get it right though. 🙂

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