Make Some Noise
Raise your hand if you can explain onomatopoeia.
Yes, you — the young man in the front row.
Incorrect. It is not the name of the villain in the upcoming Thor movie.
How ‘bout you, young lady?
Sorry, no. It’s not the villain in the yet-to-be-named Game of Thrones spin-off.
For the sake of argument, let’s just assume onomatopoeia is not a person, OK?
Ah — you, with the nose chain and sphinx tattoo whose gender I’ll leave alone. Do you know the answer?
No! No! DAMMIT! It’s not the villain in the live-action Hello Kitty movie coming soon to theaters! What did I just say!? Weren’t you listening!?
WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ALL OF YOU!?
Easy, Roy. Easy.
Let it go, man.
You’re not teaching middle school anymore. That life’s behind you: the blank stares, the apathetic parents, the stress smoking.
Just work the exercise like they taught you.
marshmallow bounce house marshmallow bounce house marshmallow bounce house marshmallow bounce house marshmallow bounce house
OK then. You all strike me as visual learners, so I’ll explain onomatopoeia through this illustrated example.
Not only was Nobel Laureate Don Martin a gifted artist; he was a wizard at adding oomph to his cartoons through the magic of onomatopoeias.
In the panel above, spwotch is the onomatopoeia.
You may never experience the sensation of being smacked in the eyes with fried eggs like I have, but thanks to Don’s mastery, you sure know what it sounds like.
Anyone can punch up their stories with this form of ear imagery. All it takes is a little imagination and a Sesame Street grasp of phonemes.
Sure, you can always take the lazy route and grab a tired old onomato-pee-ew off the hoo-hum shelf, but injecting screech (braking tires), toot (train whistle) or boom (exploding pelican) just wouldn’t show off your creative chops like something homegrown.
Just think how many more copies Melville could’ve sold if he vocalized a little bit and tucked in some literary sound effects:
Ahab grasped the harpoon with both hands.
“HRONK!” bellowed the angry beast.
See? Totally improved.
Here are examples from yours truly that appear in my upcoming novel. They’re free to use so long as you give me complete credit in a footnote and help me finish my novel. (It’s a bit of a mess.)
the Pillsbury Doughboy producing a middle-finger for the Keebler elf who stole the love of his life, Little Debbie
donka donk donka donk
a pitbull trotting down the street with the skulls of victims dangling from his collar
an angry zombie reaching for a plump child through the wrought iron fence of a KinderCare
a crowd waiting for the grand opening of a local cannabis dispensary
a non-sports inclined father demonstrating how to halt a soccer ball traveling at high-velocity with a pair of strategically placed family jewels
incoming email (Windows 10)
incoming email (Windows 10 with CrapGram app which alerts users of bad news via the first few chords of Beck’s Loser)
Dr. Strange opening a small interdimensional portal so he can break wind while the other Avengers remain none the wiser
any given Monday morning after two minutes staring at the bathroom mirror