‘Dunny’ and ‘Brekky’: How Bluey is Changing the Way American Kids Talk

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DDo you know what a “dunny” is? What about “brekky, mate”?

If you’re an American parent, chances are at least two of those words were foreign to you a few years ago, but now they’re essential to your everyday family lexicon.

And it all comes down to a cartoon dog.

Australian animated show Bluey broke onto Disney platforms in 2019 and became an instant hit with adults and kids alike across North America.

Now, amused American parents report that their children use Australian phrases in everyday conversation, often with an Australian inflection as well.

“My daughter has picked up some terms; she refers to the breakfast as ‘brekky,’ Massachusetts real estate agent Jason Manganello told Australian Breakfast TV. “I’ve heard from other parents that her children are switching in and out of the Australian accent.”

Most kids around the world are used to foreign programming with a lot of content filtering in from the US, but the phenomenon of embracing foreign programming is more recent the other way around in North America.

“In many cultures around the world, this kind of exposure to two or more languages ​​or dialects is the norm rather than the exception, and children grow up understanding and producing both codes quite naturally,” Bhuvana Narasimhan, director of Language, Development and Cognition Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder, tells The independent.

Now that’s spreading to young viewers on the other side of the world, and Toronto speech pathologist Melissa James has heard the linguistic effects on her own daughter, now five.

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“I noticed that my daughter, who watched a lot of Peppa Pig, started saying different words that are common in British English that are found on the TV show,” says Ms James. the independent. “For example, he would say ‘mama’ with a ‘u’ sound … versus ‘mama,’ as it would be American or Canadian.

“And she started saying other lines from that show in a way that sounded like she had a British accent, and it was really cute and adorable.

“However, as a speech pathologist, I was never worried that I would still have a British accent, because accents are acquired over time and the number of words a child hears daily from mum, dad, grandpa and grandma, siblings and the teachers at school and the friends… the child will develop an accent that is basically an average of what he is hearing, what he is surrounded by.”

Ms. James says she has definitely listened to other parents concerned about their children’s changing speech patterns. But she reiterates that the beloved blue heeler family won’t be enough to alter the accents of an entire generation of young viewers.

“With Bluey, your child can learn a couple of words that are pronounced in a way that sounds like there is an Australian accent,” says Ms. James, Director of Toronto Speech Therapy. “However… who your child talks to the most, they pick up the accent from where they hear the most words.”

She tells the parents, “Don’t worry. It is just a passing phase. Again, the average time the child hears the word ‘mama’ right now may be half Peppa Pig or half Bluey, but over their years, that will be [be drowned out by] average and will sound more like a local speaker.”

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For Bluey creator Joe Brumm, the phenomenon is fun and a good antidote to the Americanization of television in Australia and beyond.

“All I can do is apologize,” he says in an interview with the independent.

“What’s been pretty good is the American audience, in particular…they’re enjoying the little puzzle of trying to figure out what half the words mean.

“I think that the public, and especially children, can really enjoy these little puzzles: discovering that, of course, this same English-speaking country calls these things by a different word. They call the ‘sidewalks’ ‘trails’”.

“We grew up having to translate American and British shows, and kids are smart and they do it.”

Ms. James agrees with children’s adaptability and fluency, adding that language acrobatics can certainly only contribute to more well-rounded development.

“As a kind of parenting philosophy, I think exposure to other cultures is good, especially in this day and age where diversity, inclusion and fairness are so prevalent,” says Ms. James.

“We are trying as a culture and as a society to accept differences that are not the basic or majority culture.

“So I think the exposure of young children to any different culture, including Australian culture, is a beautiful thing.”

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www.independent.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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