Wednesday, December 20, 2006

What language does Pingu speak?

Who's asking: Henry and Matthew Lavinder, Mechanicsville, VA

For those of you who don't hang out with very young children, Pingu is a Claymation penguin that lives at the South Pole with his mother, father and brother (mysteriously, a puffin) in a geographically inaccurate igloo.

Pingu and his pals are the subject of a series of rather entertaining kids' TV programs that originated in Switzerland about 20 years ago, were hugely popular in England, and have only recently made it to the United States. My younger nephews love Pingu, and my sister Peggy likes the shows because they're very short, so she can enforce limits on their TV-watching time.

Anyway, Pingu and his friends speak a language that sounds real, but isn't. It's "'penguinese' -- an expressive penguin language which is very appealing and easy to understand." according to the official Pingu news page. Pingu's gibberish is kind of soothing; it's like visiting a foreign country where you don't speak the language, and must therefore rely on tones of voice and nonverbal cues to communicate.

Instead of five random songs today, here are the five songs in my iTunes library that have "Christmas" in the title:

"Christmas," The Who. From Tommy, who doesn't know what day it is.

"Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis," Tom Waits. Tom Waits once told an interviewer that this was his most autobiographical song. It was a joke, of course, but jokes always hide a deeper truth.

"Christmas Day," Jim White. Not everyone has a home to go to on Christmas; the narrator of this song is in a Greyhound bus station.

"Christmas in Prison," John Prine. I love this song, and not just because it steals my all-time favorite melody, "Believe Me if All Those Endearing Young Charms." How can you not love a waltz that begins, "It was Christmas in prison, and the food was real good/We had turkey and pistols carved out of wood"?

"Christmas Morning," Lyle Lovett. Another beautiful, sad waltz about alienation and loneliness. Hmm. A theme may be emerging here.

And although it doesn't have the word in the title, I'll add Kirsty MacColl's immortal "The One and Only." Funny, this one is also a waltz:

Some lives read like a postcard,
And some lives read like a book
I'll be happy if mine
Doesn't read like the joke
From an old Christmas cracker...


Karen said...

Pingu does not have a brother. In the early shows, he was an only penguin living with his mother and father. Then came the egg, when it hatched, out came his little SISTER...PINGA! The other penguin he plays with is his friend and neighbor. Just wanted to get it right for people.

AnswerGirl said...

Thank you -- my mistake!

AnswerGirl said...

Just a reminder: I do not allow anonymous comments on this blog. If you don't want to sign in with Google or your personal URL, at least sign your posts. Thanks!

jehnymey amistad said...

My toddler boys loves Pingu and even named the Blue Character , AJ. They even have their own translations on what they're saying in the show which amazes me.

Anonymous said...

My daughter loves the show, it makes her laugh. She happy so it makes me happy.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

what names are pingus friends besides pingg and pingi and pingo

Deborah Veldhuizen said...

I used to let my daughter watch Pingu. But there's no educational value at all. Let kids watch Sesame Street, Super Why, Sid the Science Kid. Pingu is just stupid

Anonymous said...

It's cute,it teaches children to focus on body language,emotions etc.Definitely in my book a plus when it comes to kids education.And sometimes it's very funny.

Anonymous said...

Noot noot