Onomatopoea

rogersgeorge on October 22nd, 2017

The other day I wrote about alliteration, so let’s take a look at another figure of speech, onomatopoeia, pronounced ah-nah-ma-ta-PEE-a. It’s from the Greek, meaning literally, “doing the name.” As you no doubt remember from seventh grade English (Hi, Miss Austin!) it means “a word that sounds like what it means.” Or is supposed to, anyway. Words like “peep,” “woof,” and “moo.” A lot of these words don’t actually sound like what they say they sound like. Ever listen to an actual rooster? It doesn’t really sound like “cock-a-doodle-do.” What about “bang,” “crash,” and “pow”? And the French word for the sound of a dog barking is pronounced something like “ngaf,” or so I’m told. Sometimes we don’t have a word for some sounds, a problem comic artists deal with often. For example, what sound does a rake on concrete make? Here’s a panel from Terri Libenson’s Pajama Diaries. Or what about the sound of a subterranean critter, maybe a Bobbit Worm, being eaten? The Edge of Adventure, by James Allen and Brice Vorderbrug, has something to say about that:

 

 

 

Well, those aren’t likely to end up in the OED, but here’s a good commentary on the subject. Thanks, David Malki, of Wondermark: ''You teach the KIDS, Ray! You teach it to 'em when they're KIDS!!''

I think you should feel free to make up your own onomatopoetic words. If you think up a good one, share it in the comments.

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Two Bad Jokes

rogersgeorge on October 20th, 2017

But they’re about language, so I guess it’s okay. First the pun. It’s the last word in the comic. And that leads to the less jokey joke, use of a figure of speech that we call alliteration. Alliteration is when you start two or more words with the same letter. The Peter Piper tongue twister […]

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Another Curmudgeon!

rogersgeorge on October 18th, 2017

His name is Brian Patrick Byrne and he wrote an article about a NASA-sponsored computer game that he says is riddled with errors, both of fact and of English. He seems to be correct. If you’re interested in mistakes in video games, go read the article. It’s not bad, (though once he used “within” when […]

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The Difference Between “That” and “Which”

rogersgeorge on October 16th, 2017

I usually ignore things like grammar checkers, but Microsoft Word’s grammar checker happens to be pretty good at this distinction. I should add that we have lots of uses for both words, but today we’ll look at only one use. Here’s the rule: Use “that” in restrictive clauses. Use “which” in non-restrictive clauses. Whatever that […]

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The Present Tense in Technical Writing

rogersgeorge on October 14th, 2017

Here’s the rule: Use the present tense to indicate customary behavior, no matter when it happens. That’s right, when you do something, something happens. Doesn’t matter whether you’ve actually done it yet. Here are a few examples: When true, the boolean indicates acceptance; when false, it indicates rejection. When you press Enter, the window appears. […]

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