Becoming an insufferable Anglophile used to take years of experience. For myself, it required round the clock viewings of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, obsessing over the Spice Girls, reading Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, going through a weird Oasis phase when I was 14, finding bootleg streams of Skins in high school, etc. Now, four-year-olds just watch a little Peppa Pig and start speaking like tiny Dickens characters.
They’ve hacked the system. What happened to hard work?
It’s the “Peppa Effect,” in which children who are most certainly not from the United Kingdom have begun to mimic the voice of Peppa, Britain’s most famous piglet.
Parents are now posting Peppa anecdotes using the hashtag #PeppaEffect, claiming that their children regularly lapse into using British terminology or speaking in faux English accents a la Madonna. One news anchor from a Cleveland based NBC affiliate said that her daughter recently called gasoline “petrol.” Petrol!
Parenting site Romper spoke with Roberto Rey Agudo, the language program director of the department of Spanish and Portuguese at Dartmouth, about the Peppa Effect. Agudo said that these reports of “accent mimicry” are normal due to exposure and the overall Peppa Pig phenomenon. But that’s not the only reason a child might start speaking in an accent.
Romper also spoke with Dr. Emma Byrne — author of Swearing is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language — who pointed out that kids could be picking up on the positive parent attention surrounding the accent, which makes them want to keep using it.
“If you imagine being somewhere between the ages of 2 and 5, you don’t have much power in this world, beyond those tantrums of going all floppy, but as soon as you find a word or a sound in this case to consistently get your parents’ attention, it’s an amazing thing,” she said of the accent.
In other words, kids love attention! And they sure as hell get it when they call a truck a “lorry.”
As these children age and Peppa Pig becomes a hazy Nick Jr. memory, they’ll probably lose interest in sounding like a bratty British piggy. Otherwise, we can look forward to the post Gen-Z generation converting us to the metric system. And we can’t have that.