funzoaPlease watch this video before reading the post.

Warning: this song WILL stick in your head—possibly for days.

Created by the famous Youtuber Funzoa, “Google My Bulbul” is, at the most basic level, a video of an adorable teddy bear singing a song that praises the utility of Google. Why many find the video funny (it has almost 2 million views and a 13-1 like-to-dislike ratio) can be dissected from a variety of angles: music, visuals, cultural references, etc., but for the sake of this post I will focus on the use of language in it.

In following with Betsy Rymes’s concept of “Citizen Sociolinguistics,” my hope is not to analyze the video from a traditional linguistic point of view. Instead, I will look at viewers’ comments posted on the video’s Youtube page and dissect how they reacted to the use of language. As you will see below, what’s particularly interesting about this video is that the creator himself has responded to some of the most interesting and often most negative comments about language.

So, to start with a simple description, in what interesting ways does Funzoa use language in “Google My Bulbul”? Here are some fairly objective characteristics that immediately jumped out to me:

  • Adding an “uh” to the end of lots of words
  • Inversion of word order that sounds odd to an American English speaker
  • Nonstandard use of the progressive tense–“All the information it always giving free,” “It never getting lost,” “It helping download any file”
  • Extremely high pitch

This is not an exhaustive list, rather just a few main things will stand out to most people watching the video. So how do viewers react to the mimicry of this, as the creator puts it, stereotypically “South Indian” accent? Some of the most interesting comments arose out of replies to the following statement (all spelling is written exactly as it appeared on the video’s Youtube page; my translations from Hindi are in brackets):

Lukas Hettieratchi: This is the stupidest thing ever!!!!!!!!!! What is the world, it sucks!!!!!! F**K THIS!!!!!!!

Funzoa @Lukas Hettiaratchi: The pun in this has a certain cultural connotation, u wont understand it if you dont see it. So u r right from your POV. But im sure u shall find smthing interesting from my othr videos

syawkcab @Lukas Hettiaratchi: The video makes fun of how desi [Indian] aunties talk. If you’re not desi, you won’t understand references.

Chakravarthy Kalyan @Lukas Hettiaratchi: lukas,just because u come from different culture does not give you artistic authority to pass stupid comments.This is an adaptation in karnatic classical  south indian music.This culture itself dates back to 1500 years.Learing classical music is a lifetime experience.This person beautifully adapted english into karnatic music and rendred a perfect song.If you cant appreciate some thing atleast have an heart to encourage.

The first two comments, including a comment from Funzoa himself, hint at the belief that the use of language in this video is closely tied with ethnic or cultural identity. According to syawkcab, in order to understand the video’s mimicry, viewers must be Indian. The final commenter finds the video “beautiful” because of Funzoa’s “perfect” integration of “English into karnatic music.”

Many viewers, such as Reeta Sood, simply find the use of accent humorous:

Reeta Sood: Funny Funzoa…really mazedaar [funny]…keep up your good work, accent n all…some morons won’t get it becoz of they un-evolved understanding … 😉

Other viewers, however, found the video annoying and even offensive:

Mohammed Almansour: Wtf is wrong with the writer of this song ??? And he used the freakin indian s**t accent f**k off!! Stupidest song ever

Hamzah Patel: Stop this horrible song funzoa is stupid. This is offensive to English people

I wonder what Hamzah Patel would consider as “English” people? Only British people? The traditional Anglosphere (UK, US, and other English-dominant former British colonies)? Anyone who speaks English at all? It’s worth noting that several hundred thousand people speak English as their first language in India and might use some of the phonetic or lexical features in this video that sound “odd” to an American English speaker.

One interesting exchange between Funzoa and a viewer highlighted different attitudes towards what counts as “correct” English:

Zarin Mansur: silly grammar error!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Funzoa @Zarin Mansur Hi, I dont do grammer errors. You may check my other content. The error was intentional. Like how sometimes, people from a non-english region in India, use broken english to convey a message. And you somehow fathom whats being said. So thats a pun intended, whether you get it or not.

Viewer Zarin Mansur calls the use of Indian Englishisms and non-standard English grammar wrong, whereas Funzoa sends a comment (apparently filled with non-standard English to prove his point) that argues that the lyrics he wrote are not full of errors; rather, they strategically deploy language in a way that represents how some Indians speak. Funzoa believes that he doesn’t “do grammar errors” because he is simply representing how English is actually spoken.

In conclusion, a quick scan-through of comments has revealed a surprising array of attitudes towards the use of the language in one of Funzoa’s most popular videos. On one hand, some reacted to the use of accent extremely negatively, finding the video either offensive, annoying, or simply incorrect. Others reacted more positively, praising the author’s effective deployment of language for humorous effect.

What do you all think of the video? Do you think Funzoa is right when says he doesn’t “do grammar errors”? Do you find the video offensive as some viewers did? I’d love to hear your comments.

Jacob is a first-year undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Linguistics. His interests include bilingualism, second language acquisition, code-switching, Bollywood movies, and taking walks around Philly.

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6 thoughts on “Reactions to an Increasingly Diverse English: “Google My Bulbul”

  1. This video is a piece of art, which means it can take liberties with the language. You either like a piece of art, or you don’t. It is difficult to understand why people “hate” so easily! I think it probably has to do with deep prejudices against people, cultures, nations.

    As for me, I loved this video. I think it’s funny and cute. The parody on Indian English makes it even more fun.

    Having said that, I am one of those who believe in the sanctity of language. One must first achieve reasonable fluency in a language, learn to respect its beauty, before he/she can start experimenting with it.

    Like

  2. This video is a piece of art, which means it can take liberties with the language. You either like a piece of art, or you don’t. It is difficult to understand why people “hate” so easily! I think it probably has to do with deep prejudices against people, cultures, nations.

    As for me, I loved this video. I think it’s funny and cute. The parody on Indian English makes it even more fun.

    Having said that, I am one of those who believe in the sanctity of language. One must first achieve reasonable fluency in a language, learn to respect its beauty, before he/she can start experimenting with it.

    Like

  3. Thank you so much Jacob for this post. I’ve been looking all over the internet for an explanation of the linguistics behind this song and you’re the only person I found that talks about it.

    I’m not Indian myself (I’m a typical Canadian White male) and not a linguist either – just someone who is interested in linguistics and who found the song ingenious.

    What I’m especially interested in is which dialect of Indian (I’m assuming the song is Hindi) commonly adds the vowel at the end of words (googeleh, bulbuleh, uncleh) that the song is poking fun at. I’m gotten some clues that the song might be poking fun at Telugu. Can any native Indians confirm this?

    Like

  4. Thank you so much Jacob for this post. I’ve been looking all over the internet for an explanation of the linguistics behind this song and you’re the only person I found that talks about it.

    I’m not Indian myself (I’m a typical Canadian White male) and not a linguist either – just someone who is interested in linguistics and who found the song ingenious.

    What I’m especially interested in is which dialect of Indian (I’m assuming the song is Hindi) commonly adds the vowel at the end of words (googeleh, bulbuleh, uncleh) that the song is poking fun at. I’m gotten some clues that the song might be poking fun at Telugu. Can any native Indians confirm this?

    Like

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