Blog News

1. Comments are still disabled though I am thinking of enabling them again.

2. There are now several extra pages - Poetry Index, Travel, Education, Childish Things - accessible at the top of the page. They index entires before October 2013.

3. I will, in the next few weeks, be adding new pages with other indexes.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Brightly-Coloured Blobs

There is a kind of fixed template nowadays for those who wish to make TV programs for very young children. They need a handful of blobby near-human looking characters, usually furry and always brightly-coloured. These characters wander around a landscape that is not just brightly-coloured but almost exclusively primary-coloured. They make a variety of pre-linguistic sounds that are apparently meant to mimic the noises children typically make before they learn to speak but which in fact resemble the noises you get if you try to speak through a kazoo.

There is usually some kind of narration, often by a "famous voice" – a down-on-his-luck actor or a pop-star-turned-thespian will do nicely.

And not being a child psychologist I have absolutely no idea whether this is a good thing or a bad thing and hence no comment to make.

What is the point of this post then?

Well, flipping around the channels this morning I happened upon something called "In The Night Garden" in which a light blue blob and a brown blob in dungarees were running around a large bush that was a shade of green unknown in nature. They were looking for each other but as they kept running in the same direction were always on opposite sides. All the time they were making a kind of squeaking-grunting noise. Eventually they did find each other, at which point the narrator (apparently Derek Jacobi) chipped in with the comment that stopped my hand on the way to the channel switch

"Igglypiggly and Upsy Daisy have found each other. Isn't that a pip?"

"Isn't that a pip?"

I haven't seen language like that since I last read a Famous Five book and that was more than forty years ago. Enid Blyton, who wrote them, died in 1968.

So why, I wondered, did the narrator use such an oddly dated turn of phrase? Is it perhaps making a comeback? Can we look forward to similar 1950s middle-class expressions being revived? Will it be a jolly good show? Will everything be absolutely ripping? Or perhaps topping? Will there be lashings of ginger beer when mater and pater get home? Are you a good egg? Or maybe a brick?

Maybe not. Maybe it's just "pip". Maybe it's part of the current street argot of the average three-year-old. Of course as I don't have an average three-year-old handy I may never know.

When all is said and done it's probably just an idiosyncrasy of the writer. Who knows?

And with that I must be away. It just remains to say "Toodle pip, old chap. Toodle pip."


Cat said...

I don't know that we have as many of those as you do, but we do have a lot. There is so much children's programming being done for TV, now, that all kinds of drivel is getting broadcast. Appalling. It's so seldom to see real people acting normally anymore. Shame, really. I miss Mr. Rogers. Did you have him over there at all?

Anonymous said...

My 3 year old son has seen this show (and every one contains "Wasn't that a pip" or "What a pip".) He has taken to asking me what a "pip" is. I have heard the expression before but do not really know the meaning of it or how to explain it to him. Can anybody help me out?

Bob Hale said...

The Online Etymology Dictionary

suggests that it derives from "pippin"

pippin Look up pippin at
"excellent person or thing," 1897, from coveted varieties of apple that were raised from seed (so called since c.1432), from M.E. pipin "seed" (see pip (1)).

This sounds as if it might be folk etymology to me and I'm intrigued enough that later, when I have a little more time, I will do some research and get back to you. I suspect it will actually be one of those phrases whose origin is lost or disputed.

Thanks for checking out my blog.

Bob Hale

Bob Hale said...

Sorry the link wasn't complete there.

Here it is again, in two parts