Folium: Why Do Pigs Oink, Boo-Boo, and Nöff-Nöff via The Guardian

Folium: Why do pigs oink, boo boo, and nöff-nöff via The Guardian

Folium: Why do pigs oink, boo boo, and nöff-nöff via The Guardian


Have you ever thought back to the animal noises that you used to make as a child? How a cat goes “meow meow,” a pig goes “oink oink,” and a cow goes “moo?” Did you ever think of how other languages might make these sounds? You probably haven’t, but it’s definitely more interesting than you might think at first.

What is Onomatopoeia?

What is Onomatopoeia?

You see, the noises, or words, we use to describe the noises that animals make vary from language to language. This is known as onomatopoeia. It helps to explain the thousands of diversities between languages that makes them sound similar, especially when we’re referring to the sounds that our animal friends make.

“In case you were wondering, it isn’t pigs that are multilingual, it’s us. The onomatopoeia we apply to animal sounds varies delightfully around the world. This diversity reflects the unique flavour and panache of different languages. It’s one of the many joys of exploring the linguistic quirks of other tongues.” – The Guardian

Did you know we keep some things in common when we interpret the noises our animal friends make? Sometimes they might start with the same letter as each other, across each language. They always end up sounding quite similar, though, don’t they?

With cows, the sounds the make almost always begin with ‘M;’ except with Urdu, where the cows go ‘baeh.’ The same goes for the meowing of the cat, across languages. In almost every language the word for a cat meowing starts with an ‘M;’ except in Japanese, in which language a cat goes ‘nyan nyan.’

There have been several studies into how these noises, these words, have developed to sound the way they do. However, there seems to be a consensus that they probably originated from our imitating the grunts, cries, and over all sounds that the animals that we are listening to have been making on their own.

These sounds express themselves differently across different languages but, really, we’re all trying to communicate the same things. The same types of sounds that are coming from the mouths, snouts, or beaks of our animal friends.

Isn’t that an interesting thought to consider? How different our languages may be from each other, and how different our cultures may be, and yet we still have some little things in common, like the onomatopoeia with our animal friends.
Things like animals cross language barriers and we can develop further understanding of languages by interpreting the similar aspects between them.

The intricacies of language are quite interesting, especially with the onomatopoeia in relation to animals from language to language. However, it would do quite well for you to read up on the details in the original article, as well!

Ashleigh Slater
LEAF Contributor