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Teletubby Vocabulary Offends Some

KATIE FAIRBANKOctober 22, 1998

DALLAS (AP) _ ``Teletubbies″ may be one of the hot toy licenses for the holidays, but some shoppers don’t like what Teletubby Po has to say.

At least one chain of toy stores is pulling all the talking plush dolls from its shelves amid complaints about some of the red-suited Teletubby’s comments. Some offended shoppers believe the doll says ``Fatty, Fatty.″ Others have heard the word ``faggot.″

The itsy bitsy Entertainment Co., which licenses the Teletubbies, said the doll is actually saying the nonsensical words ``fidit, fidit,″ which the character regularly sings on the television show.

But toymaker Hasbro, which manufacturers the stuffed doll, started earlier this month inserting language cards in each doll’s box to familiarize people with the Teletubby language.

``Each Teletubby has its own gibberish,″ said Eileen Potruck, a spokeswoman for itsy bitsy. ``But, I think a lot of people are buying the dolls because they’re cute and they’re not familiar with the series.″

``We haven’t had any recall. Obviously, if anyone has any problem with the dolls we’ll take them back,″ said Ms. Potruck.

Amid concerns that shoppers could be offended, Dallas-based Arlington Toy Enterprises pulled the Po dolls off its shelves and sent them back to Hasbro.

``We were just trying to head off any potential problems,″ said Dean May, president of the store chain with four stores. ``It is very difficult to discern what that one was saying.″

In Watertown, N.Y., last month, one doll was removed from the store after Brenda Sipher of Rodman, N.Y., complained that the recording contained an offensive slur.

``I was very upset,″ said Sipher, who had planned to give to her 14-month old granddaughter as a Christmas present.

The store on Thursday declined to comment if there were other complaints following that incident.

Po is a talking ``Teletubby,″ along with Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Tinky, all characters developed for a popular British television show which premiered in the United States last April.

The stuffed multi-colored dolls wear fuzzy rompers with different-shaped antennas on their hoods. In the Hasbro line of dolls, each character has a little screen on its tummy that, when squeezed, says recorded phrases like ``hug me″ and ``bye-bye.″

Chris Byrne, editor of Playthings MarketWatch, a leading toy trade publication, defended the dolls.

``My opinion is, it’s pretty accurate Teletubby-speak for those who watch the program. This is clearly a situation where somebody is reading something into it.″

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