The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

They Were Lazy, So They Said, “Just Make Noises With Your Mouth.”


Let’s face it, somewhere along the way – and it happens in every generation – the people who work to adapt and change languages simply get lazy. They start making noises with their mouths, and just passing those off as words. A long time ago, they gave this thing they were doing a name: Onomatopoeia. It was sort of like, “hey, we don’t know what to do for words anymore, so we’re going to make a lot of noises with our mouths, and then create a word for it that not one person will ever know how to spell, or sound out.”

You’ve been making noises, and hearing voices, and sounds, since before you popped out of your 9th month warming station. At some point, we all begin the transition from sounds to syllables, to somewhat recognizable grunts, to words, sentences, structure, and meaning. But then there are also those noises that we just never stop making because there were never words invented with which to assert meaning. How silly do you think you sound when you say “the bee went bzzzzzzzz,” or “the jack in the box boinged.” Is “woo woo woo” really the way you want to describe the sound of a siren? And is SMACK! really the way to describe getting hit? Does that sound-word really denote the physical action of being… well, smacked?

It’s fun to make noises. There’s no argument in that. I enjoy making stupid sounds in my sentences that go “Demonstrative-adjective noun verb onomatopoeia.” 

About Christopher Margolin

Chris Margolin spent more than a decade in Education as a high school English teacher, and is now an Instructional Coach for the Longview School District. He is also the founder of The Poetry Question, an online journal which focuses on reviews of small press poetry publications, and runs a regular series called "The Power of Poetry," where notable poets share their personal stories of how poetry has affected their lives. Margolin resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, and daughter.

2 comments on “They Were Lazy, So They Said, “Just Make Noises With Your Mouth.”

  1. kiwiskan
    May 10, 2013

    An interesting take… so unless there are new noises there can be no more onomatopoeia. But new technology helps that.

    • Christopher Margolin
      May 10, 2013

      I suppose technology does help with some new noises. It is interesting to think that there will be no more onomatopoeia though.

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