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Where do yikes and other small interjections come from

A discussion of slang and the changes it undergoes.

Where do yikes and other small interjections come from

Postby dsteve54 » Wed Oct 03, 2007 4:57 pm

I am no linguist, or at best only a budding one. I only discovered this entire site a few days back.

But I was sitting around wondering how an interjection like "Yikes!" comes into the language. It might be a pormanteau, but does not seem like an onomatopoeia.

I did a site search and did find one hit that indicated it dated to the 1930's. Otherwise, I did not see any information.

Some similar exclamations are intuitive (e.g. "Oof!" simulates a reaction to being punched in the stomach, et al).

I would guess that some of these exclamations get introduced into the culture from comic books, but I am not sure. Can someone point me in the proper direction for the etymology? Perhaps this topic has been treated elsewhere and I just could not unearth the information.

If you think about it, it is difficult to see how a word like "Ouch!" 'chooses" to come into being.

I would not mind seeing a cross-references of simple monosylabic exclamations on this site cross-referenced by counterparts in other languages (e.g. Russian "Ой!" for "Ouch", etc).

It would also be interesting to see some data on how quickly an exclamation gets disseminated from its point of origin to become part of the standard vernacular. Maybe someone who works in network theory would know.

Thanks.
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Postby sluggo » Wed Oct 03, 2007 11:18 pm

dsteve54, welcome in!

A search of this site shows this word has been previously uttered three times in the singular, all by myself, thus I am obligimicated to respond (in my defence I adopted it from a former girlfriend). BTW I would suggest searching the singular for better results, though it's always possible the singular and plural might have converged from different paths.

The OED sez, in part: exclamation of alarm or surprise; perhaps from yoicks, a call in fox-hunting, attested from c.1770.
Yike "a fight" is slang attested from 1940, of uncertain connection.

And excellent observation and query. Let's suggest it as Word of the Day.
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Postby skinem » Thu Oct 04, 2007 9:47 am

Welcome, dsteve!

I don't have an answer to your question. But, I do know that interjections that meant are to imitatate sounds do vary from culture to culture, language to language, although intuition would say that they (the sounds) would be the same.
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Postby dsteve54 » Thu Oct 04, 2007 11:25 pm

skinem wrote:Welcome, dsteve!

..... although intuition would say that they (the sounds) would be the same.


Not only is it odd that interjections are not the same, but animal sounds are not rendered the same, though you would THINK the same type phonemes would be used in various languages. This was straight from my Russian text and there was an audio to go with it...I will try to transliterate the Russian for you in rough format:

goose: га-га-га! (gah-gah-gah!)
hen: ко-ко-ко! (koh-koh-koh)
cow: му-му-му! (moo-moo-moo)
cuckoo: ку-ку! (koo-koo)
crow: кар-кар-кар! (kahr-kahr-kahr, and that is a ROLLING r)

The cuckoo and the cow definitely are perceived the same way as American speakers would perceive them. The other sounds are alien, though I can possibly see the goose rendered that way. Russians have phonemes for the American way of expressing these. Yet the same external stimuli produces a different result.

Maybe the same is true with interjections...would a Russian really experience a stomach-punching sound and air being expelled as "oof!" (say, уф!)...or would they experience the actual sound differently?

Since I do not know the etymology of "Ouch!", the Russian analagous exclamation ( Ой! ), a dipthongal "oy!" sounds equally plausible for the situation of being burned by a match. Ой is not all that drifted away from "Ow!" or vice versa.

Some things going on here seem counterintuitive.

Sorry, Russian is the only second language I am familiar with. My German and Spanish are weak, and I don't know any languages beyond the Indo-European family.
Last edited by dsteve54 on Fri Oct 05, 2007 11:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby sluggo » Fri Oct 05, 2007 9:29 am

An entire thread on animal sounds through the world's languages! Kewl.

While a French cat would utter a familiar miaou, its purr is a ronron, and whether uvular or rolled R it seems far more onomatopoetic than purr.

...next?
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Postby skinem » Fri Oct 05, 2007 9:38 am

German bees say "summ, summ". So THAT'S what the creepy Mazda kid is saying!
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Postby Perry » Fri Oct 05, 2007 10:17 am

Israeli dogs say "how how" and Israeli roosters say "koo koo ri koo".
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Postby gailr » Fri Oct 05, 2007 7:40 pm

A language instructor friend says that English-barking dogs say bow-wow, French-barking dogs say ouah ouah, and Spanish-barking dogs say gua gua.

And look! what the internets have coughed up: Animal Sounds

-gailr

I didn't include the link I found for a very brief discussion of this on an American Sign Language site. I had a friend back in WI who signs for various events. It would be interesting to see what these animals' sounds *look like* in different sign languages...
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Postby Bailey » Sat Oct 06, 2007 4:52 am

And now we can get into a huge discussion of other phonesthesia and of course exactly what it is, examples, goody this thread should go on and on. The Influence of phonesthesia on the English Language, not to mention all the other languages.

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Postby gailr » Sat Oct 06, 2007 9:38 pm

Phonesthesia
PRONUNCIATION: fōn'ĭs-thē′zhə
NOUN: 1. Total or partial loss of sensation and hearing, induced by long-overdue obligation call to a relative. 2. Local or general insensibility to pain with or without the loss of hearing, induced by an enjoyable call to or from a far-away friend.
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Postby sluggo » Sat Oct 06, 2007 10:31 pm

gailr wrote:Phonesthesia
PRONUNCIATION: fōn'ĭs-thē′zhə
NOUN: 1. Total or partial loss of sensation and hearing, induced by long-overdue obligation call to a relative. 2. Local or general insensibility to pain with or without the loss of hearing, induced by an enjoyable call to or from a far-away friend.

3. What you get in the hospital when the anesthesiologist is not paying attention?

Wonderful list from the engineers of all people. One omission was quém quém, the call of the Brazilian duck, which apparently go nasal without noses.
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Postby gailr » Sun Oct 07, 2007 11:24 pm

Nice link, sluggo. Makes the Aflac duck sound even less melodious...


Whelp, if no one else will say it, I will:
Perry wrote:Israeli roosters say "koo koo ri koo".
That's because he's the egg-man.


-gailr


ps: bnjtokyo, if you're lurking on this thread, what is up with those Japanese bees?
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Postby skinem » Mon Oct 08, 2007 9:40 am

I thought it was the walrus...
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Postby Stargzer » Tue Oct 09, 2007 12:42 am

gailr wrote:A language instructor friend says that English-barking dogs say bow-wow, French-barking dogs say ouah ouah, and Spanish-barking dogs say gua gua.

And look! what the internets have coughed up: Animal Sounds

-gailr
...


On that link, the French word for what a duck says is spelled coin coin, but it's pronounced kwa kwa with a nasal sound at the end, sounding like quack without the "ck" at the end. A bit like sound of The Penguin as played by Burgess Meredith or Danny DeVito in Batman movies.
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Postby Stargzer » Tue Oct 09, 2007 12:49 am

sluggo wrote: ...
Wonderful list from the engineers of all people. One omission was quém quém, the call of the Brazilian duck, which apparently go nasal without noses.


Ooh! Nice link, Sluggo! A bit like a French duck, but still a bit different. Ahh; Brazilian Jazz! :)
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