AH, THE QUIRKS of human language, especially regarding the concrete world in which we live, rather than the made-up world of the rational—and hopefully ratiocinating—human brain/mind. The “creation of words that imitate natural sounds” is known as onomatopoeia (Merriam-Webster), a past-time that has apparently engaged and delighted humans since we stumbled upon/invented language.
Those animals that make sounds with the least amount of variance tend to have onomatopoetically similar sounds assigned them in various languages. For example, nearly every language has a cow making a moo-like noise, while most cats meow, and all cuckoos go cuckoo. *
But what of man’s best friend? That is a very different story indeed. The sounds attributed to dogs in various languages varies as much as dogs vary in appearance and personality. Here are some of the enormous variations of the dog’s sound in various languages:
• Alabanian: ham ham
• Catalan, bup bup
• Chinese, wang wang
• Greek, gav gav
• Icelandic, voff voff
• Indonesian, gong gong
• Uktranian, haf haf
And those rascally Italians give it the same sound as English but spell it bau bau!
This dog has been remarkably well trained, although readers should not think that they can duplicate this success with their own pets.
Dogs develop regional accents
According to the Canine Behaviour Centre, dogs can even develop regional accents! CBC researchers concluded that “dogs imitate their owners in order to bond with them; the closer the bond, the closer the similarity in sound.”
As for bonding, anecdotes, jokes, and cartoons abound concerning the similarity in appearance (and often, the disposition and temperament) of many dogs to their owners.
In Disney’s 101 Dalmatians (the animated film from 1961), the canine protagonist Pongo decides to hook up his owner, perennial bachelor and human protagonist Roger Radcliffe, with a human mate. He does this by checking out the dogs that are attached to the available humans. In a cute bit of girl-watching, Pongo checks out various pairings and evaluates them. 1