Saturday, June 28, 2008

Word of the Week: onomatopoeia

This week I was at a jazz festival. Improvisational riffs back and forth between musicians have always fascinated me, as has the word “riff” itself. I know, strictly speaking, riff’s not onomatopoeic, but it is fun to say, which I think is the main reason I like the word. Anyway, given that it’s been on my mind, I thought riff would be a good choice for Word of the Week.

But, when I started writing this, I did a quick check to make sure riff doesn’t fit the definition of onomatopoeia. Turns out I was right, defines onomatopoeia as: 1 the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it (as buzz, hiss), and 2 the use of words whose sound suggests the sense.

After looking it up, I realized that onomatopoeia should be the Word of the Week. After all, it’s even more fun to say than riff, which means it’s an even better reminder that words can live in our ears and mouths, as well as on the page.


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