Tee hee. Ha ha.
It’s August, time for something silly.
What’s not to like about words which sound like or suggest their meaning?
From a teaching point of view it’s unfortunate that, of all figures of speech, the one most easily understood by children has such a challenging name and spelling. Contrived from the Greek onomat (name) and poiein (making), it can be further complicated with a typographical ligature for o and e. So, font permitting, there’s onomatopœia (boom tish).
Writing for children is (rightly) awash with onomatopoeia; here’s an inspiring list of random noises with their usual spellings:
- including some from ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’:
long wavy grass – swish, swash
mud – squelch, squerch
storm – hooo wooo, howl, whistle, whine
water – splash, splosh, splish, babble, drip, gurgle, gush, whoosh
Animal noises are interpreted differently around the world. This could have implications for the translated editions of your work:
bee – buzz, bzzz
cats – purr, meow, miaow, mew
cockerels – cock-a-doodle-doo (but it’s the much more accurate cocirico in French and several other languages)
dogs – bow wow, ruff, woof, yap yap, yelp
frogs – croak (but for American species it’s ribbit)
horses – neigh, whinny horses’ hooves – clip clop
weasels – rzzzz (OK, that’s one for any fans of the Mothers of Invention and/or classic LP covers of the 1970s - recognise the thumbnail at the top of the article?)
Human body noises
Fear not, this isn’t going to get too gross:
crying – boo hoo, wah wah, sniffle, sob, wail, weep
heartbeat – lub-dub (lmgtfy – that’s the atrioventricular then the semilunar valves)
noisy drinking– slurp, gulp, glug
noisy eating – chomp, crunch, munch and now there’s nom nom nom
disapproval – tsk or tut tut (these are alveolar clicks… ta dah!)
shivering confirmation - brrr
sneezing – atishoo or achoo (though the range of human sneezing in my experience includes hup-boo, aa-rarg and tssk)
siren – Another noise with translation implications. Nee naw (UK) but of course there’s woo woo (USA) and many more variations around the world.
archery – twang
coins – jingle
extinguishing a candle – pfft
spring/trampoline – boing and so on!
You’re in good company if you’re feeling inventive:
cat – mkgnao in James Joyce’s Ulysses
horses – houyhnhnm in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels
horses’ hooves – tlot-tlot in Alfred Noyes’s The Highwayman
And finally – spelling can be varied for effect, of course. Pressure exerted on a ruler clamped by the lid of the desk creates dwoing… or dwoiiinnnnggggg…