Recently, a friend and I listened to one of our favorite Neil Diamond songs: "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show." (If you don't know it, look it up!) The hand-clapping, foot-stomping, tambourine-shaking, choir-shouting backdrop to the lyrics is pure onomatopoetry—to coin a phrase.
Here's what I mean: It's a bunch of sound, and it's also poetically beautiful. I'm using the word with a bit of irony, since that's not the exact definition of onomatopoetic.
Want the real definition? Onomatopoeia (on-oh-MAH-toh-PEE-a) is the formation of a word from the sound it's named for or associated with, like cuckoo or boom. Other examples include bang, pop, snap, sizzle, whiz, crack, crackle, and pow. Feel like you're reading the action-packed climax of a graphic novel yet? Graphic novels and their forbears, comic books, are probably the heaviest users of onomatopoeia to convey action, as well as sound. The word, itself, comes from the Late Latin and Greek words for "to make" and "name."
A favorite song of mine from childhood that was full of such beautiful noise-words was called "Music Machine." Check out the lyrics to see what I mean. Or listen to a snippet from His&Hernandez Music. What's your favorite song? What's your favorite sound? And can you spell it?
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