Perhaps the biggest complaint about English pronunciation is that words are not always pronounced the way they’re spelled. But while this is true, many words are pronounced the way they’re heard. This is called onomatopoeia. An example, for those of us who grew up with Batman and Robin, are the infamous “Bang”, “Boom”, and “Ka-bam”. Others include “goop” and “glop” – the distinction being one of total subjectivity! Imagine the words “goop” and “glop”. Doesn’t a clear visual immediately come to mind?
If you’re fascinated by language like we are, you may find it interesting that many words relating to the same theme often use the same consonants. For example, in Bill Bryson’s book, The Mother Tongue, Bryson notes that words having to do with wetness tend to start with sp: spill, splatter, splash, spray, spigot; words that have to with movement often begin with fl: flap, flail, flick, flee, etc.
In fact, every language under the sun has a number of onomatopoeic words and sounds. This makes sense. With roughly 200+ vowels and 600+ consonants used around the world, languages have a variety of sounds to choose from. Learn about onomatopoeic sounds from around the world. It will make you pause and wonder…why does an American rooster say “cock-a-doodle-doo” and a Filipino rooster say “tiktilaok”? The way we hear sounds differ from region to region, language to language. My personal favorite is from Hawaii. It’s a word that describes lava that’s dangerously hot but not quite molten:“ah-ah”.
Who could say it better than that?