Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Bow wow wow
yippy yo yippy yay
Bow wow wow
yippy yo yippy yay

The words above are from George Clinton's classic 1982 funk song, "Atomic Dog," and I'm not sure whether you knew this or not, but they're a classic example of onomatopoeia.  Onomatopoeia is a literary device that tries to express a sound as a word.  Words like buzz, tweet, ruff, and meow are all examples of onomatopoeic words we've come up with to express some sounds that animals make.

In high school English classes, the use of literary devices in literature is something that students are taught to recognize.  Sometimes, these literary devices can present a challenge to my ESL students, things like irony, personification, metaphors, etc., etc., etc.  Part of my job as an ESL teacher is to help my kids understand things by breaking them down into simpler terms that they can understand.  Onomatopoeia is one of my favorite literary devices to teach to my students.

First of all, I love saying the word!

"Onomatopoeia, onomatopoeia, onomatopoeia!"

I dunno, it's just such a silly-sounding word that's kind of fun to say and easy to remember.  I also like teaching this particular device because I love music and I can use songs such as this one to convey the idea of what onomatopoeia is.

There are many songs out there that use onomatopoeia, and usually they're kinda fun, too.  That makes em memorable, which is a good thing as far as the students are concerned.  Songs with onomatopoeic words are plentiful, like in the B-52's "bang, bang, bang, on the door baby" from "Love Shack," the "boom, boom, boom" in Katy Perry's "Firework," Bobby Darin's "Splish Splash," or the "Crack! Boom! Bam!" from John Mellencamp's "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A."

Rock impresario Todd Rundgren once recorded a song called "Onomatopoeia," which of course would be the ultimate way to teach any kid about the literary device known as onomatopoeia.  Check out the song and lyrics below:


Onomatopoeia every time I see ya
My senses tell me hubba
And I just can't disagree
I get a feeling in my heart that I can't describe
It's sort of lub, dub, lub, dub
A sound in my head that I can't describe
It's sort of zoom, zip, hiccup, drip
Ding, dong, crunch, crack, bark, meow, whinnie, quack

Onomatopoeia in proximity ya
Rearrange my brain in a strange cacophony
I get a feeling somewhere that I can't describe
It's sort of uh, uh, uh, uh

A sound in my head that I can't describe
It's sort of whack, whir, wheeze, whine
Sputter, splat, squirt, scrape
Clink, clank, clunk, clatter
Crash, bang, beep, buzz
Ring, rip, roar, retch
Twang, toot, tinkle, thud
Pop, plop, plunk, pow
Snort, snuk, sniff, smack
Screech, splash, squish, squeek
Jingle, rattle, squeel, boing
Honk, hoot, hack, belch

So that's a little onomatopoeia for ya!


No comments:

Post a Comment