Tuesday, February 5, 2013

La Paruline Jaune

There are some conventional words we use to imitate the sound of rain and running water: pitter-patter, dribble, trickle, drip, drop, burble, and so on. As I was waking up this morning, listening to the sound of the rain I thought about combining some of those words to create new words for rain: drickle, burkle, trip, trop, spurkle, etc. I wonder how a Spanish-speaking person listening to the rain in Spain would mimic the sounds of the dripping water.

As I study birdsong, I'm intrigued with the phonetics and onomatopoeic words we use to transcribe and vocalize birdsong. It is often different in different languages. For example, in English roosters say "cockle doodle doo!" and in French they say "cocorico!" This arbitrary quality used to vex me as a child because I liked language to be precise. I wanted to know if a word was correct or incorrect. In this case, there is room for interpretation.

In French, the yellow warbler is "la paruline jaune." In English, it says "Sweet, sweet, sweet, I'm so sweeeet!", or something along those lines. In French, it says "Soui-soui-soui-soui!" Some birds are called by their onomatopoeic tags, like Chickadee, or Whip-poor-will. Imagine if all birds were called by names that mimicked their call. A duck would be a Quack and and goose would be a Honk. In English, we use the word "hummingbird", using a word that imitates the sound of the tiny bird's wings. In Spanish, the bird is called "beija-flor", which means "flower kisser". How appropriate!

I would love to find the words in languages other than English that are used to describe and name birds and birdsong. Please put them in the comments below if you find them. I would also love you to create your own short bird song sound poem to share with us at the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Garden. You could write in in linear form, or in a cloud or "Wordle" format, or even in the form of a bird. Now how about doing the same thing with the words you make up to describe the sound of the rain in Vancouver. If you bring your poems to the workshops and performances we can use them as part of the score. Yahoo!--(as they say where I come from).

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