Monday, November 3, 2008

The Melancholy British Version of Hee Haw

Even as a kid, I thought it strange that all the Winnie the Pooh characters save for Pooh himself should be named after the type of animals they are save for Eeyore, the clinically depressed donkey whose doom and gloom could rain out even the most Disneyfied cheer.

However, a recent post at Separated by a Common Language — a blog that focuses on the differences between the American and British varieties of English — discusses the phenomenon of onomatopoeia variation and noted that the American version for the noise donkeys make — hee-haw — is essentially similar to the British version — eeyore. This might not make sense to Americans until they consider that eeyore is essentially hee-haw spoken with a silent “H” on both syllables and the ending pronounced with the typical British reluctance to pronounce the letter “R.” Just try it: Say “eeyore” out loud in a British accent.

And so, essentially, “Eeyore” is just “donkey” in the same way that a kid might call a dog a “bow-wow” or a duck a “quack-quack.” Oh bother, indeed.

And if that isn’t enough of onomatopoetic differences among different languages, check out bzzzspeak and see how India, Korea and Italy’s versions of the noise cuckoo clocks make.

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