I Heart Indies

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Let's Get a Few Things Straight

Is this any more absurd than claiming
roosters go "Cock-a-doodle-doo"?
Like a lot of people, I used to have a free-and-easy attitude when it came to onomatopoeia.  "Live and let live," was my motto. "In America cows moo, and in England they low.  Different strokes for different folks, I guess, tra-la-la."  I now realize this sort of woolly-headed thinking is heading the world straight for destruction and the time has come to put my foot down.

This realization was brought about when last night, Zoe said, "Woof."  This may take some explaining.  She did not bark, she clearly and distinctly articulated "woof" with a "w" at the start, a "f" at the end, and a mellow diphthong along the middle.  This made me realize a good onomatopoeia is not just a matter of taste or someone's personal opinion but a strictly objective account of an actual noise.  Is that clear, or do I need to repeat myself all over again?

Take for example the British superstition that cows "low," a belief which, I believe if we looked into it, would prove to have been instrumental in the loss of the empire.  To make the "l" sound, you must delicately press the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth just behind the teeth.  Go to a delicatessen and ask for a look at their beef tongue.  If you think a cow curled that slab upward to touch the roof of her mouth, you're clearly in need of medication.  No, cows moo, and that's all there is to it.  They press their flabby cow lips together and after a brief consideration, let out with an "oo."

As for baby chicks, the Spanish believe they go "pio pio."  This clearly indicates Spaniards are insane.  The "pi" part is allowable, but where are they getting an "-o?"  This is not a matter for dispute, people.  You can listen to a bushel of chicks for a week straight and they won't utter a single "o," not even by mistake.

Lest you think I'm being xenophobic, I don't let Americans off the hook either.  As an innocent child, I was told roosters go "cock-a-doodle-doo."  And we wonder why America's farms are in such trouble.  I don't know what perverse jokester spread the rumor birds make this ridiculous sound or how he got others to believe it, but we have to correct this mistaken impression at once or the country's done for.  Dear Lord, can we seriously ask people to believe any bird says "doodle?" You might as well say penguins go, "Buzz-gurgle-wump, buzz-gurgle-wump."  To come up with a good onomatopoeia for a rooster cry, admittedly, is no easy task, and perhaps we should appoint a panel of experts to look into the matter.  My own suggestion, "Ar-a-rar-a-rar!" while accurate somehow fails to capture the real essence of the thing.  Some sounds may simply be unreproducible in print.

This brings us back to the noises dogs make, one of which is unmistakably woof.  On this we can all agree.  Dogs are common domestic animals, and we have all heard their articulations.  And yet.  Somehow the outrageous lie has gotten around that dogs go "bow-wow."  Perhaps this injustice is no longer perpetrated on the young, but I distinctly remember childrens' books informing me that the doggy goes bow-wow.  The doggy goes nothing like that.  The damage done to our nation's youth by this sort of nonsense is incalculable.  Being told by a trusted authority figure that dogs go bow-wow leads the growing child to have a reckless disregard for truth and ultimately to distrust all authority.  Next thing you know, he's an atheist.  I believe if you carefully polled our nation's prisons, you would find that every one of the inmates had at one time or another been told dogs go "bow-wow."  Coincidence?  Maybe.  I merely present the facts and let you decide.

These are extreme sentiments, I suppose, but we live in extreme times and extreme measures must be taken.

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