Monthly Archives: March 2001

The Power of Naming

“Onomatopoeia / I don’t want to see ya / speakin’ in a foreign tongue,” John Prine once sang—or wheezed, depending on your taste in music. We do it all the time. We growl and mewl at our lovers, bark and howl at friends and strangers. At least we do in my neighborhood. But what is it, in any language, that we are doing when we say “arf arf” or “moo moo”? And if “onomatopoeia” simply means “to make a name like the thing itself” then why the heck does it sound like nothing English speakers ever say or hear? Continue reading