Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sneezing Around the World, Part Two

On Sunday, I posted the various worldwide translations for the word sneeze, and Carl commented that he’d be interested in learning the various words for the actual sound of sneezing — you know, the noise the English-speaking render as achoo.

Carl’s comment:
I have been more interested in the other language equivalents of “achoo.” I remember when I worked in a Japanese school, I heard one the teachers say/sneeze “hakushon,” and I thought to myself, “That’s not what a sneeze sounds like Shes faking it” But now I think about all the times I've said/sneezed “achoo” and if those were fake too.
Here’s a list of the various onomatopoeia I could find for sneezing. (Links at the bottom of the post.)
  • Arabic: atchu
  • Batak: atcim
  • Bengali: hach-chu
  • Bulgarian: apchix
  • Catalan: atxum, atxís, atxim
  • Chinese: hāt-chī (Cantonese), ā tì (Mandarin)
  • Czech: hepčí, kychnut
  • Cypriot: apshoo (which is purported to also be the name of a village in Cyprus, though I can’t find it here)
  • Danish: atju, hatju
  • Dutch: hatsjoe, hatsjie
  • Estonian: atsihh, atsih aptsihh, aptsih
  • Finnish: atshii, atshiu, atsiuh, atshii, atshiu, atsiuh
  • French: atchoum
  • German: hatschi, hatschu
  • Greek: apsu, apsiu
  • Hebrew: apchi, itush
  • Hindi: achhee, aak-chheen, aak-chhoon
  • Hungarian: hapci
  • Icelandic: atsjú
  • Indonesian: hacciihh, wa-hing
  • Italian; etciú
  • Japanese: hakushon, kushu
  • Kazakh: apschoo
  • Korean: etchi
  • Latvian: apčī
  • Lithuanian: apčiū, apči
  • Macedonian: apchixa
  • Norwegian: aatsjoo
  • Persian: achu
  • Polish: apsik
  • Portuguese: atchim, atchô
  • Romanian: hapciu
  • Russian: apchkhi
  • Serbian: apciha
  • Sinhalese: hacis
  • Slovak: hapčí
  • Slovene: ačih, ačiha
  • Spanish: achú, achísorachís
  • Swedish: atjoo, atjo
  • Tagalog: hatsing
  • Tamil: a-choo
  • Thai: hud-chei
  • Turkish: hapşu
  • Vietnamese: hắt xì, ắt xì
Are some of these more widely accepted than others, in the way that achoo is what most English dictionaries seem say is the standard way of representing the sneeze noise? Probably, but it’s an interpretable sound, you have to admit. Even English has alternate renderings for achoo, among them hachoo, tchoo, achew, atishoo, kerchoo, kachoo and (apparently) ahem. And no, the similarity between atishoo and a tissue seem to be coincidental, according to Etymonline, though now that I think about it, doesn’t handkerchief sound weirdly like a sneeze noise as well?

In response to Carl’s comment, it does seem like haukushon would be in the minority: Most of the sneeze words end in a vowel. Maybe the Japanese and the other ending-in-a-vowel sneezers are just more polite by virtue of trying to close their mouths and limit the outflow of sneeze particles?

Also, do Japanese sneezers truly say haukushon when their nasal situation gets critical while English sneezers say achoo? How would a person raised in isolation sneeze? Or would they say anything?

Sources: the Wikipedia page for sneeze, the Wikipedia page for cross-linguistic onomatopoeias, a Meta Filter thread, this page on sneezing that seems to be a repurposing of an old version of the Wikipedia page, a Word Reference forum thread, and a list of Japanese onomatopoeia on Transparent Language.

And check out Part Three!

12 comments:

  1. Looking at the various languages, we can postulate that the natural onomatopoeia for sneezing is something like ha/a with an optional p or k terminal consonant, followed by a ch or sh syllable and any random vowel and terminal. The ha/a part represents the inhale of air and the ch/sh syllable represents the closing of the mouth while sneezing.

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    1. Your logic holds up, but I'm interested to figure out how someone decides whether to end it in a vowel or to place a consonant sound there.

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  2. Anonymous11:48 AM

    In Korean it's "eh CHWEE!"

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  3. "Serbian: apciha"

    Yes, or more precisely, apćiha or aću (/apˈtɕixa/, /aˈtɕu/).

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  4. I'm pretty sure "n" in Japanese in word-final position is vocalic, so rather than restricting the outflow, speakers would actually be enabling egress through two openings (mouth and nose) rather than one.

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    1. My understanding of Japanese final "n" is that it's uvular, but it's still a nasal consonant, so the airflow through the oral cavity is still blocked.

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    2. But it might be a nasal vowel sometimes, like you say.

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    3. See, this is what I get for thinking about sounds like a monoglot.

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  5. The village in cyprus is now named Assou. Older cypriots still call it apshoo.
    http://goo.gl/maps/crUz3

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the info! I'm actually kind of amused that this place does, in fact, exist. Do you know why the name changed from Apshoo to Assou?

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