Toddler Tuesday: British-isms

Last week, the Toddler Tuesday post featured words the toddler makes up or combines to make sense of the world. Here is a video she helped me make to demonstrate the word “fluffly.”

My daughter’s first television show—at least, the first one that captivated her attention—was Peppa Pig. It was recommended by my husband’s coworker, and it was literal love at first sight.

The moment the toddler discovered Peppa Pig. I fear no human on Earth will warrant a more perfect love at first sight.

The moment the toddler discovered Peppa Pig. I fear no human on Earth will warrant a more perfect expression of love at first sight.

Since then, we have watched every episode countless times. I could probably recite several from memory, and I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve referenced something from Peppa Pig in explaining things to the toddler.

“Mommy, what’s that?” she might ask.

“That’s construction equipment,” I’ll say.

She’ll shoot me a perplexed look, telling me she doesn’t quite understand.

“You know Mr. Bull on Peppa Pig?” I’ll ask. Her eyes will light with understanding. “The equipment there is similar to what Mr. Bull uses to build houses.”

“And dig up the road!” she adds, nodding understandingly.

But another fun side effect of her obsession with Peppa Pig is that it’s British. So, many of the terms we use for common objects here in American are referenced differently in the show. As a sampling, the toddler now refers to her flashlight as a torch. Our yard is a garden, even though our tomato garden is also a…garden. Many things are “lovely” instead of “nice” or “good.” When I show her pictures of our beach vacation, she references the time we “went on holiday.” As for nap-time, she often says she is “a bit tired.” When people thank her, she tells them, “you are most welcome.”

When I mix something in a bowl, like pancake mix or cake batter, she says she must “make a wish” over the “Christmas pudding.”

British English here in America has the effect of seeming a bit formal, so it’s sometimes comical coming from a toddler. Going on a walk at dusk, she might say, “I need to find my torch because it’s a bit dark” and she’ll need a jacket because “it’s a bit chilly.” Or if she wants us to turn on the light in her room, she might say, “Mom, I’m a bit scared.”

But the most humorous element of her obsession with Peppa Pig is her pronunciation. She has adopted a British pronunciation of several words, and I’ve noticed she switches from time to time between American and British pronunciations, sometimes even within the same sentence.

But one word stands out. The abbreviation for “cannot,” “can’t” has stuck with her as British in nature. I’ve noticed that many of the “child” characters on Peppa Pig say, “I can’t” quite frequently, as in “I can’t reach.” My daughter has picked this up.

The effect is a toddler speaking very formally, in an overly-dramatic nature.

“Get your shoes on,” I might say.

She’ll look at me with a very serious expression. “caaaan’t,” she’ll say, drawn out and slow and politely British. “They’re the tie kind.”

The way she says it makes the whole ordeal seem that much more dramatic than it should, as if I’ve just asked her to marry her mortal enemy (“I simply caaaan’t.”). I could see her throwing her hand across her forehead as if ready to faint. The way she says it makes it seem like every fiber of her being is ready to give up its very existence if it is forced to take one more step in the requested direction. But when applied to everyday situations, the result of the juxtaposition is humor:

“Please eat the last bite of your broccoli.”

“I caaaan’t, I just caaaan’t.”

“Time for you to go to bed.”

“I caaaan’t, mommy.”

She needs a formal dress, I think, and maybe a tiara. Then maybe I would believe her.

And I need to learn more effective ways of biting my tongue to stifle laughter.

“Honey, can you please stop hitting the keyboard so mommy can finish this blog post?”

“I caaaan’t, Mommy. I just caaaan’t.”


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