In linguistics and poetry, onomatopoeia is the device of a word, or occasionally, a grouping of words, with a sound imitating the sound it is describing, such as "bang", "click", "fizz", "hush". For animals, the following words are typically used in English:

A number of animals, especially birds, also get their names from the onomatopoeic link with the calls they make, such as the Cuckoo and the Chiffchaff.

Advertising uses onomatopeoia as a mnemonic so consumers will remember their products:

  • Rice Crispies - "Snap, crackle, pop" when you pour on milk
  • Alka Seltzer - makes a "plop, plop, fizz, fizz" noise when dunked in water
  • Cocoa Puffs - a wacky bird is "cuckoo" for them

The sound of Tennyson's words reinforces the actual words describing a lazy summer's day: The moan of doves in immemorial elms, / And murmuring of innumerable bees.

According to Dick Higgins, "Three basic types of sound poetry from the relative past come to mind immediately: folk varieties, onomatopoetic or mimetic types, and nonsense poetries. The folk roots of sound poetry may be seen in the lyrics of certain folk songs, such as the Horse Songs of the Navajos or in the Mongolian materials collected by the Sven Hedin expedition." (Primary reference: Henning Haslund-Christiansen, "The Music of the Mongols: Eastern Mongolia" 1943:New York, Da Capo Press:1971; secondary reference: "A Taxonomy of Sound Poetry" by Dick Higgins, From "Precisely: Ten Eleven Twelve", 1981).

Onomatopoeia in Music

Onomatopoeia-based music uses the mouth and vocal cords (that is, voice) as the primary musical instrument. A common music tool in European and American cultures uses the voice instrumental tool that is technically called a solfege. A solfege is a vocalized musical scale that is commonly known as Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti. A solfege may be sung, spoken or used in a combination. A variety of similar tools are found in scat singing of jazz, Delta blues and also rock and roll and the ska variation of reggae music (especially in the form of ska called Two Tone).

It should be noted that historically, some forms of onomatopoeia served as a mnemonic and a mimetic tool for musicians around the world. See mouth music.

See also:

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