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I've got your onomatopoeia right here

We got a free catfood sample at a local grocery store, and the sack reminded me of the oddities of onomatopoeias across languages.* This is always interesting to me but especially so since we are awaiting a little one. A little one whom we will raise in a bilingual household. I guess I'll do animal sounds with Little Bean in English, and Julien will teach him or her the French, like the alphabet.  The poor kid is probably going to have a heck of a time learning to spell his or her name. 

In French vs English, some onomatopoeias are similar, but because of pronunciation rules, they are spelled differently.  Case in point, the sound a cat makes: Meow as opposed to miaou. Here are the examples from the sack in question: 

"Mmmh" is easy enough. "Waouh" is an odd, almost-imperceptible smoosh between "wow" and "whoa." But "miam," do you know what English sound that translates, too?

How about these animal sounds:

Cot cot
ouaf waf

* When I first arrived in France as an au pair, the kids I babysat did not understand when I said "aie aie aie;" they taught me, instead, to say "oy oy oy."

And speaking of sounds, French boys don't whistle at pretty girls the same way US boys do. Just so you know.


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 13th, 2010 04:43 pm (UTC)
I'll play! And for the fun of it, I've written the Danish version in parenthesis. :p

Miam = Yum? (Nam)

Hiii = Whinney? (Vrinsk)

Meuh = Mooh? (Muh)

Coin = Oink? (Grynt)

Cot cot = hehehe, no idea what it is called in English. Bok bok? Like the chicken? (Kluk kluk)

Grouin = Quack? (Rap)

ouaf waf = Woof woof? (Vov vov)
Aug. 13th, 2010 04:43 pm (UTC)
PS. My parents didn't believe in teaching me animal sounds, so no confusion there :p
Aug. 15th, 2010 08:51 am (UTC)
hehe. I was wondering, after I posted this, if teaching animal sounds was a normal thing to do. :P
Aug. 15th, 2010 08:50 am (UTC)
Ah, you mixed up "coin" (duck) and "grouin" (pig)! Otherwise, well done!
Aug. 13th, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC)
I'd guess "yum!" for "miam!"

Is "cot cot" "cluck cluck," like a hen makes?

And is "hiii" a whinny, like "neigh"? (a horse's noise?)

And is "coin" "oink"? (or maybe that's what "gruin" is...)

I'd guess "ouaf waf" is "woof woof."

Annnnd... maybe "Meuh" is either "moo" for a cow or "maaaah" for a goat?
Aug. 13th, 2010 05:13 pm (UTC)
Oh, and since frigg provided Danish, here are some Japanese ones:

"wan wan" is "bow wow"; "kokkekoko" is "cockadoodle doo"; as I recall "nyaa nyaa" was "meow meow."
Aug. 15th, 2010 08:53 am (UTC)
Good job. "coin" is quack, and "grouin" is indeed oink.

"meuh" is moo, and the goat sound is mééé (which makes a long A instead of "ah").
Aug. 15th, 2010 08:57 am (UTC)
er, I hit "reply" before the other reply was finished uploading, so it moved it down here.

Anyhow, interesting about the kokkekoko! The "cot cot" above is for the hen, and in French, the rooster's cockadoodle doo is cocorico (i = long E).
Aug. 13th, 2010 08:00 pm (UTC)
Taking wild guesses:

miam = yum
hiii = ?
meuh = moo
coin = quack
cot cot = coocoo
grouin = ?
ouaf waf = woof woof

Aug. 15th, 2010 08:59 am (UTC)
hiii= neigh (Since the "I" is "E" in French, you have that higher pitched sound coming in)
grouin = oink

Is "coocoo" your chicken sound or for a dove? The cot cot is like cluck cluck or bok bok.

Bravo on the duck!
Aug. 14th, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC)
And now for some Hebrew ones:

Hav hav (woof woof)
Kwa kwa (croak croak)
Kookooreekoo (cockadoodle doo)
Tzeef tzeef (tweet tweet)
Ga ga ga (quack quack quack)

Interesting how each language perceives the sound differently, isn't it?

My only guess is ouaf waf=woof woof...

Aug. 15th, 2010 09:01 am (UTC)
Kookooreekoo is very much like the French cockadoodle do, which is cocorico!

And yes, I find it totally fascinating how different our ears are. :D
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 15th, 2010 10:54 am (UTC)
It can even change the way you sneeze! In English we say "ah-choo", and in Hebrew we say "up-chee"... and I notice that when Israelis sneeze they really say "up-chee" whereas I still say "ah-choo"!

Aug. 15th, 2010 10:55 am (UTC)
Sorry, I was in between log-ins... :P
Aug. 16th, 2010 09:30 am (UTC)
I noticed this with pain sounds. I used to say the US "ow" or "ouch;" now I say aie! Also, instead of the hem-hawing US "um," I'm just as likely to say "ben" (sounds more like "buh").
Aug. 16th, 2010 09:46 am (UTC)
Totally! Israelis say "aya!" or "ai!", and "ehm". If I'm around Hebrew speakers I will totally use the Hebrew sound. When on my own or around English speakers, I use the English sounds. The only exception is the sneeze. Up-chee just doesn't make sense. :P (I do often talk to myself in Hebrew, though, and if I'm in a Hebrew swing I'll use the Hebrew sound as well. Some things just sound better in a different language, you know? :D)

Aug. 16th, 2010 09:18 am (UTC)
*nods* I've had this happen to me with the French sounds. If I listen, I can hear what the French think the animal is saying, but sometimes, my ear disagrees. And of course, now that I want an example, I can think of nothing. :P
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 21st, 2010 01:39 pm (UTC)
Estonian and Vietnamese, now there is an unusual combination. :D
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )


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