Tuesday, May 20, 2008


My learned language teaching colleagues and I were discussing onomatopoeia over lunch today, particularly the noises made by animals in different cultures. Did you know, for example, that although dogs say 'woof' or 'bow wow' in English speaking countries, in Germany they say 'wau wau', in France the say 'ouah ouah' and in Japan 'wun wun'?

I'm not sure what dogs said in ancient Rome, but many of the latin verbs which describe the sounds animals make have an onomatopoeiaic quality. Can you guess which animals are most commonly associated with these latin verbs ?

  • balo
  • baubo
  • coaxo
  • maumo
  • mugio
  • pipio
  • ululo
  • vagio

While we're at it, there's a famous play by the Greek comedian Aristophanes, in which the chorus dances around singing 'brek-kek-kek-kek koax koax, brek-kek-kek-kek koax'. Which animal are they imitating (it's also the name of the play)?


Anonymous said...

Is it frogs? It's the only animal play of his that I can think of, apart from The Wasps. Also mugio is a cow I think?

Anonymous said...

yeah i think we did that brek-kek-ke-kex thing for drama about musical frogs who live in marshes and bogs or something like that.:)

Anonymous said...

balo is what sheep do (baa)
baubo is what dogs do (bow-wow)
coaxo is what froaks do (croak)
maumo is what cats do (meow)
mugio is what cows do (moo)
pipio is what birds do (cheep)
ululo is what wolves do (howl)
vagio is what babies do (waah)