Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

It’s sort of zoom, zip, hiccup, drip

with 7 comments

Making traditional beehives called skeps. Phot...

Bees buzz.

‘Buzz’ is an example of onomatopoeia. This means the word is based on the sound it describes. Other examples include ‘cuckoo’, ‘sizzle’, ‘whoosh’ and ‘hiss’.

Also bee-related, try saying aloud: ‘the murmur of innumerable bees’. You’ll find it’s onomatopoeic: the sound of the words is suggestive of the sound of innumerable bees.

And here are the lyrics of the song, Onomatopoeia, written by the American musician and record producer Todd Rundgren:

Onomatopoeia every time I see ya
My senses tell me hubba
And I just can’t disagree
I get a feeling in my heart that I can’t describe
It’s sort of lub, dub, lub, dub
A sound in my head that I can’t describe
It’s sort of zoom, zip, hiccup, drip
Ding, dong, crunch, crack, bark, meow, whinny, quack

Onomatopoeia in proximity ya
Rearrange my brain in a strange cacophony
I get a feeling somewhere that I can’t describe
It’s sort of uh, uh, uh, uh
A sound in my head that I can’t describe
It’s sort of whack, whir, wheeze, whine
Sputter, splat, squirt, scrape
Clink, clank, clunk, clatter
Crash, bang, beep, buzz
Ring, rip, roar, retch
Twang, toot, tinkle, thud
Pop, plop, plunk, pow
Snort, snuk, sniff, smack
Screech, splash, squish, squeek
Jingle, rattle, squeel, boing
Honk, hoot, hack, belch

See Oxford Dictionaries’ definition and explanation of the word’s derivation.

You can hear how onomatopoeia and onomatopoeic are pronounced (in an American accent) on the Merriam-Webster site.

Find out about oxymorons

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Written by Wordwatch

27/07/2010 at 7:24 am

7 Responses

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  1. Ah – they don’t write lyrics like that any more!

    Ron

    27/07/2010 at 10:27 am

    • So true, Ron. While waiting for toast to — er — toast, I was looking up ‘hubba’. It’s listed as ‘hubba hubba’ an informal North American expression meaning to express approval, especially of someone’s appearance. You probably knew that, but I didn’t. ‘Hiccup’ is interesting too (the toaster’s slow) as it can also be spelt ‘hiccough’, but pronounced the same. You knew that too, but my other reader is less knowledgeable.

      Deborah

      27/07/2010 at 1:29 pm

      • Seeing ‘hiccough’ dredges up painful memories of innocently asking a grade school teacher what a hic-cough was, in front of the class. Seeing this topic reminds me of my favourite onomatopoeic words: animal sounds. I was startled years ago to discover that French animals..well..make their noises in French (with the exception of Pepé le pew, who spoke the universal language of love.) French roosters shatter the dawn with “coco rico!”, dogs go “ouaf!”, ducks go “coin coin!” and hens go “cot cot cot!” Imagine. 🙂

        Jo-Anne

        27/07/2010 at 6:44 pm

        • Now that’s something I’ve never thought about before! Thanks, Jo-Anne. A totally new perspective on the topic!

          Deborah

          27/07/2010 at 6:53 pm

      • Informal is one way of putting it, as Hubba-hubba is generally – to put it delicately – a verbal expression of lechery, along the lines of white van man’s ‘Allo darlin’.

        Ron

        28/07/2010 at 12:22 pm

        • Ah, then I have proven Fermat’s least known theorem: that it is possible to be both very old and very naive. I won’t be saying it in front of my mum, then. Thanks, Ron!

          Deborah

          28/07/2010 at 1:44 pm

          • Probably best not – you might be compelled to ask how she knows it’s inappropriate…

            Ron

            28/07/2010 at 3:25 pm


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