Clearly I’m in the mood for poetry, so I’m not going to fight it. I’m just gonna let the sweet sweet meters wash over my hunger for verse. Onomatopoeia is just so much fun. If you’re a writer who loves linguist-nastics like I do, I bet you’ve got a few choice words you’ve mashed up on a napkin and now carry around in your wallet. If this sounds like you – you’re safe here. I give you full permission to own your dorkiness and fist pump, chest bump aight!
Onomatopoeia is a narrative device, whereby the word used also closely resembles/denotes the sound one is trying to describe. The sounds don’t always have to be pleasant to the ear, it can be discomforting as well as natural.
Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is often cited as a classic example of onomatopoeia, particularly with the dialogue from that stoned ginger cat. His poem Jabberwocky (1871) is also another great example.
I’ve given a sample here from a poem I wrote a few years ago – ahh the memories, boy did I have fun writing this one!
Squish splat pinch of salt
Celebrity Chef grins at Camera Two
Hot fingers melt butter and malt
Nude egg glistens ready to stew
Meat at room temperature!
An absent audience chastised
Keep the off-cuts for left-over
Serve drizzled with French fries
Floured fingers stamp white smock
Chicken blood drops on sterile tiles
As devotees to the bookstore flock
To own a slice of his culinary files
Celebrity Chef smiles, Producer yells cut!
The stage over stove dimmed lights
Macaroon white hat falls flat, but
Tune in for tomorrow’s lime and fig pies.
Onomatopoeia can not only be applied to singular words, but can also be used in phrasing or whole passages to denote or give greater emphasis to anything – whether it be size, length, force or feeling. It’s all about echoing an impression that you want the reader to feel. It’s a terrific device and you can get carried away by it all… but I guess that’s the whole point.
Till next time,