The Language of Pingu

I note, with nervous amusement, that the language spoken by the characters in the Swiss claymation Pingu series is not babble -- that's merely what it sounds like -- but reflects a calculated decision on the part of Pingu's creators to make the show as distibution-friendly as possible. Pingu does not need to be translated.

Thus ... Pingu's Penguinese is a market-driven dream of a universal language. But when Jane listens to Pingu, she learns something else. If Pingu can speak his own language, which sounds like no other language on earth, then Jane is entitled to her own language, which she makes up as she goes along. (That's not so strange. How would YOU make up a language?) Unfortunately, I am required to converse with her in this new "Jane language," and alas, my linguistic talents are not up for it. She is happy to correct my mistakes, though.

Part of growing up is figuring out all the ways you might fit into a world that you didn't create and over which you have only limited control. Pingu is definitely not teaching any lessons in this regard. On the contrary! Pingu's creator, Silvio Mazzola, reflects on twenty years (!) of Pingu's development: "His adventures are still the same everyday stories and he has not learnt so much that he has had to change his character or his behaviour." In other words, Pingu is Pingu-Pan -- he never grows up. For that reason, he is infinitely merchandisable. Mazzola brags that "MIGROS, the largest retailer in Switzerland, has fallen in love with PINGU and is offering an incredible range of food and non-food products. Soon PINGU will be as famous as Swiss watches and Swiss cheese."

Well, there are some growing pains: "PINGU has reached a size that requires a lot of administration. The trademark has to be registered and protected, the partners have to be monitored, the proposed items have to be checked in a short space of time, the finance of the administration and the protection of the rights require high capacities." Hmm.

Later. Mazzola muses, "Perhaps PINGU will start to speak." By this, I think he means, perhaps Pingu will start to speak in a language someone else might understand. But frankly, I'm not optimistic. He reminds me of the wild boy of Aveyron. I hope Pingu is saving his money. He's going to need a lot of expensive psychotherapy.