24 Mar 2013

What is Onomatopoeia?

Onomatopoeia = a word that sounds like what it describes. Crash, bang, thump, boom, bang, hiss, plop, whistle, rustle, are the clearest examples.

Can little kids learn it? Of course. Give them felt pens and get them to draw how they think the words should look. Boom and bang can be done cartoon style, with words like glint in sharp, bright colours. Rumble might look bubbly.

Curiously, a lot of words sound like what they describe:

Dull, dust, dirt, down, are all thick, heavy, low sounds. Shine, and shimmer sound light, clear and soft. Glint, like hit sounds sharper, because of the the short, high 'i' sound in the middle.
mumblerumble, and tumble, sound like a deep, ululating grumble.

You can make a case for a lot of words, in fact.


How to write about it: 


  • (beginner) 'The writer uses onomatopoeia in 'bang' and 'boom' to create a violent effect.' 
  • (advanced): 'The dull deep sounds in 'dull' 'dust' and 'under' use onomatopoeia to create a sombre, heavy mood.' 
  • (super advanced) 'The long, low vowel sounds create a cloying effect, as if we're trapped.'

Ono mato poeia might be the most horrible word in the English language to try to spell. But it's a brilliant thing to learn. I've broken it down in the way I teach kids to spell it.

Ono

       mato     like tomato
               poeia like poetry

It might help to draw a picture of this: 'Oh no! Tomato poetry!' Or it might not!