Poot, kerbaboom!*

Malaysian OnomatopoeiaSometimes when you travel somewhere often enough, you don’t notice or appreciate the things you see or hear. The latter being more so.

Cars and motorcycles sound different in Malaysia, as the poster I saw attests. Car horns go ‘Pon’; motorcyles go a variety of ways, like ‘Prengg’, ‘Brengg’ (depending on the model and make, I suppose), but brakes sound the same, only spelled with a ‘k’, and ‘skreech’ when applied.

While you could say that Bahasa Malaysia / Indonesia has a limited organic vocabulary, and that many, many words in the language are imported from the English, it sure uses a lot of interesting onomatopoeic words.

Take for instance, the sound of being beaten up, or falling down the steps, or hitting your head against the wall continuously. Yes, Bahasa has the one sound for all that, and it is my favourite onomatopoeic word across all the languages that I know of.

There is nothing like a good kedebak kedebuk. You can almost feel the resulting bruises.

I could also argue that the Malay/Indonesian word for ‘vehicle’ is an onomatopoeic one. Try saying ‘kereta’ many times and tell me it doesn’t sound like a diesel engine.

As well, explosions in this part of the world differ slightly from what you usually read elsewhere. In America, it’s ‘Boom’ or ‘Kaboom’. But in this region, there’s our almighty Kerbaboom‘, or Kebaboom‘, with the extra syllable.

Cats may meow here and in many other countries, but in Japan, they ‘nyaa nyaa‘ at you, and French chickens have a complicated cotcotcodet (which also sounds like a diesel engine). And if we had the local version of boingboing.net, it’d have to be toingtoing.net.

But far more interesting is the fact that here, as far as I know, audible farts are described as ‘poot’. I haven’t read any other culture’s or linguistic group’s onomatopoeic word for it apart from the English, where the word fart itself is an onomatopoeic word. Then again, it could be that I don’t know many other languages, and I could very well have, for instance, unknowingly ordered a fart sandwich in Italy or Thailand or Taiwan.

Come to think of it, yah. The ‘smelly tofu‘ things the street vendors sell in Taipei are quite pungent.

* the sound of a fart being lit.

iTunes is playing an illegal copy of The Sound Of Silence from the album “Anthology, Disk 2” by Paul Simon of which I have the original CD.

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17 thoughts on “Poot, kerbaboom!*”

  1. A common but surprisingly
    (at least to me) onomatopoeic
    (sound-based) English word,
    especially for some gamers,
    and in this more
    terrorist-aware age,
    is “bomb” (and its cousin
    “bombard”) according to the
    Online Etymology (Word origins) Dictionary, at

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=bomb

    Though you pointed out,
    Miyagi, about American
    “kaboom”, such a regional
    sound still does not deviate
    much from the basic word that
    makes the noise (or is it
    the other way round : )

    Good to know that some
    popular words continue to
    come from simple sources.

  2. A common but surprisingly
    (at least to me) onomatopoeic
    (sound-based) English word,
    especially for some gamers,
    and in this more
    terrorist-aware age,
    is “bomb” (and its cousin
    “bombard”) according to the
    Online Etymology (Word origins) Dictionary, at

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=bomb

    Though you pointed out,
    Miyagi, about American
    “kaboom”, such a regional
    sound still does not deviate
    much from the basic word that
    makes the noise (or is it
    the other way round : )

    Good to know that some
    popular words continue to
    come from simple sources.

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