The Cow Goes “Moo” or “Boo”? Onomatopoeia in Other Languages

Though we may not all be familiar with the word, we are all familiar with what onomatopoeia is. Deriving from Greek, onomatopoeia translates roughly to “name I make”. Specifically, it is referring to words that are used to imitate a sound. Think of words like “moo”, “boom”, or “tick

When you listen to the sound a cow makes, it doesn’t really sound like the word “moo”, but it sounds partly like that and English speakers have all been taught that this is what these animals sounds like. However, in different languages onomatopoeia is different. Not everyone thinks the cow sounds the same. Though, a lot of times there are similarities.

Let’s look at how different cultures represent the phone ring :
In English, we use the words “ring ring”.
But in Afrikaans, they say “trieng trieng”.
In Turkish, they say “zir zir”.
And in Czech,
they say “crrrrr” (to be honest, I am not sure how this one is pronounced).

Or how about we look at the sound for biting into a piece of food?
In English, we say “chomp” or “munch”.
In Japanese, they say “musha-musha” (ムシャムシャ).
And in Dutch, they say “hap”.

Water dripping?
In English, we say “drip drop”.
In Finish, they say “tip tip”.
And in Romanian, they say “pic pic”.

Find a full list of interesting comparisons for onomatopoeias here. Due to the differences, we have in onomatopoeia, sometimes the sounds other people make can be jarring. Family Guy makes a hilarious scene about these differences in the clip below.

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