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Onomatopoeia

 

 

Achoo!  I love the way it spells the sound we make.  More than that, I love the sound itself on a page.  Last few days, Rebb and I have been discussing about howl, poems, and onomatopoeia.  I think it is ripe time for me to blog about it and memorize how to spell onomatopoeia for good.  At last!

 

This is what I think.  I think my beloved onomatopoeia has been increasingly useful and becoming more valuable in English poems and dialogues in general.  In recent years, I realized English writers avoid using or look down in some cases on onomatopoeia.  That’s very unfortunate.  I think writing always needs to be democratic, not aristocratic to stay fresh.  So, I think this is a good check and balance. 

 

I don’t read manga although I have nothing against manga.  I used to read them when I was young until I came to the U.S.  Then I fell in love with Charlie Brown and Snoopy, of course.  But I’m amazed that the strong trend of manga and anime seems unstoppable, and along with them, Japanese culture and language come with it.  Have you noticed?   When I go to Barnes & Noble, I'm surprised to see people buying those manga translated into English, and I see all those creative English onomatopoeia all over.  If you are a writer and not exposed to that culture, I’d recommend visiting a manga corner and page through some of them. 

 

Last year, it was funny watching a meeting in San Francisco somewhere on television that they were discussing how to translate Japanese onomatopoeia.  They were very serious.  The issue they were discussing was how to translate ザーザー Zaaa, Zaaa.  After a debate, they translated to “whew,” I believe.  It sounds totally different, but it’s interesting, isn’t it?  Do you think all the onomatopoeia will stay this much different in the global age?

 

I don’t know, but I think we’ll definitely have more choices in expressing ourselves using onomatopoeia.  This is good thing.  But creating a good one is not easy.  When I’m reading English books, I love to see words like honk honk, oink oink, tick tok, hiccup, zoom, bang, splash, and beep-beep.  Some writers use very few of those, so I complain.  I also love lively regular words like zigzag, zap, zip, and bomb!   But what about silence?

 

I think I probably wrote this somewhere in my past blog, maybe as a comment, but long ago, I had a conversation with an American poet about onomatopoeia.  At first we were talking about the sound of water. ザー Zaaa is the sound of rain in Japanese.  But it is the sound that rain hit the roof, trees, or shrubs.  If it doesn’t hit anything, how do we describe the sound of rain?  We both had no word.  I asked him, “What do you say in English onomatopoeia about snowing.”  He said, “Snow has no sound.”

 

But in Japanese, we have onomatopoeia for snowing.  Even small children know it.  When snow is falling, and outside is totally quiet, we often use this onomatopoeia, しんしんcincin to describe the sound.  The rhythm of it maybe has something to do with the sound of our heart pulsating.  And when everything is quiet, we often say しーんciin.   But you can probably come up with better spelling for it like Achoo!

 

I might come up more about onomatopoeia, but even my chopstick blog hasn’t finished yet.  Yes, I wrote a conclusion blog about chopsticks, but haven’t edited it yet.