I’m absolutely chortling over a website I just discovered. It’s called Written Sound (www.writtensound.com). This website for writers provides an onomatopoeia dictionary, complete with nuanced definitions of the individual sounds and, where available, actual sound-bites.
Writing gurus are always reminding us to use all five senses, including hearing. But how do you put into words the strange sounds you hear around you?
Written Sound has 41 different ways to talk about laughing. Yes, really. Let me give you some examples.
- ha. The period (instead of an exclamation mark) makes this expression of laughter sound unenthusiastic, bored, in a hurry, or not really amused.
- ha-ha-ha-Ha-ha Emphasis is on the fourth Ha (louder and higher pitch) and the first three ha’s gradually go up in pitch. Signature laugh of cartoon character Woody Woodpecker. Youtube
- har-har! Laughter, sarcastic, as if sarcastically saying “very funny.” Or old-fashioned hick laugh.
- heh-heh! Laughter, sometimes perverted, or meaning “that’s not really funny.” Usually, “heh” is a quiet laughing sound, not laughing out loud. Heh-heh may also be a good transcription of the signature laugh of Beavis, from the cartoon Beavis and Butthead. Sometimes simply a more faint, private laugh.
Maybe you don’t need 41 ways to indicate a laugh, but you’d really like to know how to spell the sound a fox makes. Here are some examples of what you get when you search for “animal.”
- ack-ack-ack-ackawoooo-ack-ack-ack Fox vocalization. Rarely heard guttural chattering with occasional yelps and howls, mostly heard when animals are in close proximity to one another.
- brahnk Bullfrog vocalization.
- chirr The short vibrant or trilled sound, characteristic of an insect (as a grasshopper or cicada).
- Kaaahhkkk The sound of a cat coughing up a hairball.
- rrrruuuurrrr This is one of several suggestions in response to the question of how to write the sound of a bull, on wiki-answers. Also: moo, low, hrrooonnh, huuuooohar, muuhhhrrr. If you need a verb: bulls “bellow” (not directly imitative).
BTW, did you know? When you’re hungry, borborygmus is the official word for that rumbling sound produced by the movement of gas through the intestines. Stomach growling.
And, just so you know, the famous radio show CartTalk is responsible for this gem:
- bllgh blllgggh blllllgggghh The (automotive) sound of boiling coolant.
Have a little fun with your words today!
Donna Maloy writes historical fiction and romantic suspense, as well as fantasy for teens and plays for children. Her historical fantasy for middle grade, CELIA AND THE WOLF, won the Lyra Award for best juvenile fiction in 2014. Donna’s historical work-in-progress (the title is in flux but will have something to do with an Earl and a scandal) won second place in this year’s RWA Hearts Through History chapter contest and is entered in the West Houston chapter’s Emily Contest.