There may not be much a call for speaking fluent Furbish these days, but there was a time when children all over were determined to learn it to the best of their ability. Mastery of the dialect meant you could communicate better with your Furby, a little furry creature that looked like the offspring of an owl and a gremlin. And if you wanted to be hip to Furby’s jibe, you were going to need to do a little homework.
Looking and acting like something that crawled away from a Disneyland ride, the Furby was basically a small, audio-animatronic robot that was programmed to move, talk, dance, sing, blink and even converse. Thanks to a number of electronic sensors, it was also interactive and would respond to touch. Petting his belly, patting him on the head or covering his eyes, for example, would get an appropriate physical and verbal response. Not always the same one, however, as a certain amount of randomness was built in so that Furby was often full of surprises. And if you want to talk impressive, Furby even knew when another Furby was nearby and the two could communicate with each other and even teach each other tricks and songs. And if you put in a little effort of your own, even you could communicate verbally with Furby.
When you first plugged some batteries into Furby, he would proceed to tell you his Furbish name. He had plenty more to say in Furbish as well, and luckily he came with a handy translation dictionary. Over time, you began to remember that when Furby said “Doo-Dah,” he was really saying “yes”. “Wee-tee-kah-wah-tee,” on the other hand, meant “Sing me a song.” All in all, Furby knew about 200 words, in both Furbish and English. And, combined, he could produce almost 800 phrases.
Interestingly enough, as you were diligently learning Furby’s language, he was also learning yours, having been immersed into the human world. This little talent, however, did manage to get Furby banned from a number of federal agency buildings, as rumors emerged that the doll might be able to learn and store classified information. It wasn’t true by any means, but truth is often no match for mindless paranoia.
Regardless, it certainly didn’t affect sales any. Produced by Tiger Electronics in 1998, shortly after they were acquired by toy giants, Hasbro, the Furby enjoyed respectable popularity, selling some 40 million of the critters. There were Furby Babies, Furby Friends, which included versions of Gizmo from Gremlins, Yoda from Star Wars, and even E.T. In 2005, a new line was introduced called Emoto-Tronic Furbies which were more advanced than their predecessors.
Sadly, Furbies met their demise in 2006, but if the past is any indication, the Furbies may just raise their talkative heads once again. It would be wonderful if future generations knew the fun that is a Furby. Imagine if you will, the look of admiration and astonishment in your future child’s eyes when you nonchalantly display your effortless fluency in furbish, thanks to your secret years of practice. That should keep them guessing for a while.
If you were the proud owner of a Furby, we welcome all of your thoughts and memories in our comments section, as we fondly remember these little pals from the 90s.