Monday, April 6, 2009

Feeling Onomatopoeiaish

The grass along Tink's walk home from school had been sprayed last week. Little white signs warned us off it with skulls and crossbones.

"Don't walk on there," I told Tink and her friend.

"Why not?" they asked, in unison, because already at age 6 anything your mother recommends must be met with skepticism.

"Because it's been sprayed with pesticides."

"Ewwwwww!" they shrieked in unison, because when you are six year old best friends, you say everything in unison.

A few minutes later, Tink's friend said, "What's pesticides?"

I chuckled and asked why she'd said "ew" if she didn't know.

"It SOUNDS bad," she said. "It doesn't sound, like, natural."

It doesn't, does it? Say it. Pesticide. Yuck.

So after I explained the Latin "-cide," we talked about onomatopoeia, because you don't come over to Jacqui's house without expecting a literature lesson.

I write picture books. I have 400-700 words to tell my story. Nothing pleases me like a word that sings its own meaning with its sounds. I like "slithers" and "zig zag" and "pop" and I like the more subtle ones like "pesticide" and "snuggle." Sometimes the word even looks the part, like "dazzle" and "loopy."

And sometimes, I can hear my sister saying, the word is perfectly descriptive in every way. Like "dork."

She's right, but I don't care. Onomatopoeia makes me smile. And who doesn't need to smile in a world full of pesticides?


Diane T said...

This reminds me of my AP English teacher, who was not the most challenging or inspiring instructor (to put it kindly). I still remember her lesson on onomatopoeia. Of course she gave the obvious examples, like buzz and hum, but then she tried to expand our horizons.

"Nostril is onomatopoetic," she insisted. "It sounds disgusting—NOSSSS-trullll—and it is disgusting."

Let's just say at the end of that lesson I was feeling a little onomatopoeia-vish.

Jacqui said...

Diane, when I need to spell "onomatepoeia" I still picture my otherwise not very silly AP English teacher singing the letters.

C.R. Evers said...

LOL! cute. And you're right. At that age everything MUST be said in unison. :0)

Jacqui said...

C.R. it's true.

Mary Witzl said...

What a coincidence: a student of mine came up with the word 'snuggle' today -- "I am snuggling with my boyfriend" -- and I was so bowled-over pleased with her I could hardly speak. And now I find 'snuggle' right here on your blog!

I LOVE onomatopoeic words! Japanese is full of them: 'kira-kira' is sparkle, 'zunguri' means short and stubby, 'butsu-butsu' means to complain -- and there are literally hundreds more...

Jacqui said...

Mary, Japanese does have lots, though to the English speaker, there are some false ones; took me a long time to figure out what going out for "shabu shabu" was.

J. Thorp said...

two of my favorite words in the world -- curmudgeon and blunderbuss -- fit the subtly onomatopoetic category, in my opinion. agree?

Jacqui said...

Mmm. Definitely, Thorp. And dunderhead.

sruble said...

I love fun words like these, especially the ones you can't find a way to work into a normal conversation ;)

Candace Ryan said...

I love snuggling with pesticides!