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USAGE: onomatopoeia and spelling alternates

From:Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>
Date:Thursday, April 19, 2007, 15:36
As a lifelong reader of material which includes "sound effects", I've
noticed some interesting tendencies.  This is only peripherally
linguistic - paralinguistic, I guess - and totally
non-conlang-relevant.  But I wonder if it mightn't provide some sort
of insight into the mental connections between sound and writing?

First, /k/ is almost always spelled <k>, even though <c> is more
common in regular English words.  Even where the normal word for the
sound is already onomatopoetic, it can get respelled this way, e.g.

Second, /Vmf/ is universally -umph rather than -umf.

"Helen paused.  With an audible `wumph,' Muffy's familiar yipping had
ended..." (from a Far Side cartoon).

 "He left it dead / And with its head / He went gallumphing back."

Are modern textual foley artists emulating Carroll, or was Carroll
just an early example of the same tendency?

I don't know what role the vowel plays in this phenomenon, but
Nightcrawler's BAMF! is a good example of /mf/ not preceded by /V/.

I imagine the use of PH may come from parallelism with the common
sequence -ump.  /umf/ is usually <oomph>, too.  But without the -m-,
<f> reappears: <whuff>, <oof>, etc.

Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>


Benct Philip Jonsson <conlang@...>
R A Brown <ray@...>