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onomatopoeic creatures
Posted: 25 June 2007 09:05 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I’ve just found out the Lao word for cat is “meow”. There must be many examples of this but all I can come up with offhand is birds: kookaburra, whiporwill, and my favorite, the brainfever bird which I had thought I had come across in an entertaining and erudite dictionary of Australian colloquialisms by GA Wilkes way back which I don’t have to hand.

(I have just now wikied the latter, however, and it links to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Hawk_Cuckoo
and it is not indigenous to Australia.
The same bird says: brain-fever (English) or pee kahan (Hindi, “where’s my love") or chokh gelo (Bengali, “my eyes are gone") and paos ala (Marathi, “the rains are coming"). You could write a Greek tragedy based on these! The wiki entry also says its cries are really persistent and annoying so maybe brainfever is the best transliteration!)

Posters must have more great examples of this phenomenon, not only in birds which are the most imitative to our ears, perhaps, and not only in English? I can’t think of a single proper mammal name in English that is equivalent to the Lao in which the sound it makes has become the actual name for cat.

I am asking if the REPRESENTATION OF A SOUND has ever become the ACTUAL NAME of a NON-AVIAN creature in various languages, like meow in Lao. I already know Japanese dogs bark “wan wan” rather than “woof woof” but they aren’t called Wan Wans in that language.

Examples of mammals or marsupials or sea creatures with names reflecting the sounds they make is what I am really looking for mainly because I can’t think of any. There must be some in English or other languages.

[ Edited: 25 June 2007 10:39 AM by venomousbede ]
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Posted: 25 June 2007 09:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I can’t confirm the Lao word for “cat”, but OED has this to say about meow/miaow (not really about animal names, but still interesting):

“Similar representations of the cry of a cat (and corresponding nouns and verbs) are very widespread in numerous languages: German miau, Spanish miau, Russian mjau, Turkish miyav, Finnish miau, Chinese mio, etc. The spellings with -ao- are prob. partly after French miaou (1619; 1552 in Middle French as myault; cf. Old French miauwer to miaow (1288)).”

In this blog I found a compiled list of birds named after their calls:

1 kea
2 peewit
3 kiskadee
4 chachalaca
5 bobolink
6 chiffchaff
7 hoopoe
8 chukar
9 killdeer
10 whip-poor-will
11 morepork
12 cuckoo
13 chickadee
14 kittiwake
15 dickcissel
16 curlew
17 chuck-will’s-widow
18 odidi
19 kookaburra
20 towhee
21 bobwhite

Here are some listed in PMLA, Vol. 62, No. 1 (Mar., 1947), pp. 1-8:

bittern, chiff-chaff, cock, crane, crow, curlew, grackle, gull, hoopoe, kittiwake, mew, owl, pipit, rail, shrike, skua, turtle, whimbrel; bobolink, bobwhite, chickadee, killdeer, pewie or phoebe, veery, whip-poor-will.

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Lost for Words

[ Edited: 25 June 2007 09:58 AM by etymolog ]
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Posted: 25 June 2007 10:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Great stuff, etymol, but if you study my original post I was asking if the REPRESENTATION OF A SOUND has ever become the ACTUAL NAME of a NON-AVIAN creature in various languages, like meow in Lao. I already know Japanese dogs bark “Wan wan” rather than “woof woof” but they aren’t called Wan Wans in that language.
Great birdsong list in the onomatopeia mode and thanks for that.......... 
Examples of mammals or marsupials or sea creatures with equivalent names was what I was really looking for

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Posted: 25 June 2007 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Eeyore?

;-)

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Posted: 25 June 2007 11:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I did read your original post, which did not specify non-avian exclusivity (although it does now, since your recent edit), and I did note that the OED entry on meow is “not really about animal names, but still interesting”.

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Lost for Words

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Posted: 25 June 2007 11:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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It’s been my opinion for some time that the English word “dog”, otherwise inexplicable, is actually onomatopaeic - big dogs bark “dauhwg! dauhwg!”

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Posted: 25 June 2007 12:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I found one: macaque

OED says it’s from the French “macaque” (1680; also “macaq)”, from the Portuguese “macaco”, coming from a Bantu language:

“The word is attested in use in the Congo (as ‘macaquo’) by G. Marggraf Historiae Rerum Naturalium Brasiliae (1648) 227, and (in the form makaku) in the vocabulary copied c1651 by the Flemish Capuchin Joris van Geel. The form ‘kaku’ is the name for the mangabey in a number of Bantu languages of southern Gabon and the Congo, and is generally regarded as imitative of the animal’s cry. The plural is kaku, bakaku [no, not bukkake], or makaku, according to the language.”

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Lost for Words

[ Edited: 25 June 2007 12:50 PM by etymolog ]
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Posted: 25 June 2007 01:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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katydid (a grasshopper)
dikdik (an antelope)

These are a one level of indirection:
hummingbird, bumblebee, rattlesnake, howler monkey, croaker (a fish)

Named for something that makes a similar sound:
drum (a fish), pistol shrimp (makes a sharp popping noise),…

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Posted: 25 June 2007 01:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Eel?

Yes, I know it has perfectly respectable non-onomatopoeic cognates, but I can’t help but feel that the English word developed the way it has because it just sounds - well, eely.

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Posted: 25 June 2007 01:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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The Lao (and Thai) word for ‘cat’ is not “meow” but maaw.  This sounds onomatopoeic to us, but that doesn’t prove anything about its origin.  The Vietnamese is con mèo; I don’t know if the second syllable is a loan from Tai (which includes both Thai and Lao) or was borrowed into Tai or whether one or both were borrowed from Chinese mao, but if the latter is the case, you’d have to investigate the Ancient Chinese form, which might be quite different.  Etymology ain’t easy.

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Posted: 25 June 2007 03:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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It’s not onomatopeic, but the most common Maaori word for cat literally means “scratchy”. Sadly, the word for mouse does not translate as “itchy”.

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Posted: 25 June 2007 09:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Not animals, but in Swahili slang, especially along the coast of East Africa, a motorscooter is a pikipiki ( pee-kee pee-kee ) and a motorcycle is a tuku-tuku ( too-koo too-koo ) from the sounds they make to a Swahili speaker’s ear.

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Posted: 25 June 2007 10:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Dutch ‘kikker’ (frog) and ‘krekel’ (cricket).
Oh and English ‘cricket’ of course.

[ Edited: 25 June 2007 10:49 PM by Dutchtoo ]
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Posted: 26 June 2007 12:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Indian three-wheeled taxis called tuk-tuks

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Posted: 26 June 2007 03:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Anything called “peeper” might fit into this category. OED lists a few:

1. a young chicken or pidgeon
2. In U.S.: “A small tree frog of the genus Hyla; esp. (more fully spring peeper) a very small, brownish-grey tree frog with a dark cross on the back, H. crucifer, of eastern North America, the male of which sings in early spring.”
3. Eng. regional (Cornwall): “The red gurnard, Chelidonichthys.”

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Posted: 26 June 2007 04:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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The kiwi has a very onomatopeic name, and the English name “morepork” for a NZ owl, is also said to at least inspired by the sound of its call

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