Chiang Mai Thai

Ever wanted to learn Thai, in Chiang Mai? I did just that from November 2010, returning home in October 2011. If you don't want a headache, start HERE, it will explain the preceding posts. I'm Snap, Stray's other half. COOEE is our (other) travel blog.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

When does a dog not say woof ? - Onomatopoeia

Years ago I was talking to one of my girls...about different countries and how they aren’t always called by the same name, as they are in English. She burst into a bout of minor hysterics and looked at me as if I was just having another one of my ‘Mummy moments’, you know, those instances of insanity that come hand in hand with years of parenting!

I said ‘Seriously. Take Japan for instance...Nippon, Yiipoon...Germany, Deutschland...”, and her laughter subsided, making way for a look of 'really, honestly?'. This was obviously a life lesson I and her teachers had overlooked.

So, I’m surprised that I find it surprising (I'M NOT ALONE) that in Thailand, dogs don’t say bow wow, ruff ruff or woof woof. Personally I think the latter two sound more true to life and bow wow is, well, just ridiculous.

Our neighbour’s dog, to be truthful, sounds like a rooster on steroids. But, apparently most Thai dogs say hong hong (โฮ่งๆ). For some reason when I took on learning Thai, I never considered it would mean relearning ‘Old MacDonald’s Farm’.

Onomatopoeia* is not something I’d thought about, had to spell or ever tried to say, before, but it’s an entertainingly quirky subject.

Below is a list of sounds that dogs make, I gathered from different sources. I can live with quite a few of them, but am a little troubled by the type of dogs they must be breeding in some countries ;)

Germany wau wau...or would that be vau vau?
Portuguese au-au
Iran huff-huff
Sweden vov-vov
Spain guau-guau
Catalan bup-bup
Interlingua uau-uau
Hindi bho-bho
Japan wan-wan
France ouah-ouah
Russian gaf-gaf
Greek gav-gav
Hebrew hav-hav

For more Thai animal sounds take a look at Learning Thai

*Onomatopoeia - The use of words that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions

Cheers! สเมป See what else we're up to at Cooee!


  1. Oi, leave my books alone. :-)

    Yes, well we know what the French dog is up to, don't we.

    I never knew that about the Thai dog 'woof' though. I thought Thais were quite good at onomatopoeia,(dook-gae, gaa etc.). I should pay more attention.

    Most of the other sounds are probably the noise the animal makes as it is put on the BBQ.

  2. Dan, you may be onto something with your BBQ theory...but come on, a snake says 'for'(ฟ่อ)?...seriously!!!! That doesn't gel for me in any language, on or off the grill.

  3. Hi Snap, this is such an interesting topic. It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that words are things instead of just symbols for things. So much in the world that we take for granted doesn’t have to be that way at all. I think we can learn a lot about a country by the words they use for things.

  4. @Paul Garrigan it certainly is an interesting subject. And, although I may jest, its nice to be out of my cocoon...learning new things and new perspectives.

    Sometimes, however, it's easy to ask the questions...harder to find the answers ;) It won't stop me from looking for them though.

  5. This is a great post. It reminded me of my ESL class in BKK. We had to choose a slip of paper which had an animal on it and when the teacher said, Go! We had to make the noise of the animal and find our partner who had the same animal.

    Well it was in that class I learned that people from around the world "say" the animal noises differently. Very enlightening and like Paul said, funny what we take for granted!

  6. @Lani Learning (or teaching) a language really does open your eyes to cultural diffences...I'm really enjoying it.


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