Wednesday, November 3, 2010
The Humming Dogs of Romania
I love teaching sound words (onomatopoeia) and thought this would be a good time to introduce them--in conjunction with a lesson in the 7th Class's text on super heroes. Inevitably, amongst the zaps, pows, and sizzles, pounce the animal sounds. This particular half-class, all boys, reveled in this noisy lesson and enjoyed my reaction to various sounds animals make in Romanian. (Though apparently some animals are very quiet here for there are no words in the language for their vocalizing!) I could sort of see how most of the words for their sounds came about. I could even accept the "mac mac" of the duck, knowing it's impossible to make an m sound with no lips! But the one that throws me and makes me laugh out loud from the time I first heard it last summer is their word for "what the dog says." Now you must understand that Romanian dogs are notoriously rapscallion. In our training city last summer there were packs of them that roamed the city streets, mainly scavenging for food and often pitifully shaggy, but at times gang-like in their street fights and occasionally attacking humans as well. Here in my village everyone seems to have a dog--big dogs--behind fences and gates. Many on my street can't get past the fact that I live here and will pass them without threat or incident at least twice a day. They still want to alarm their household that the stranger approaches. (Do Americans smell different?) Most are just loud. Only two--one of which I've only seen a snout--seem to really want me for breakfast. The snout pokes out from under a solid metal gate along the sidewalk and literally drools as he growls and bares teeth, trying his best to reach my passing ankles. Dogs, dogs, dogs--even in my civilized little village a few packs of strays are allowed to run free, their cross-breed variations quite stunning. OK, you get the picture. So what do these rascally vagabonds/vicious protectors of home and kin "say?" Ham, ham, ham! (pronounced hum, hum, hum) "Nu, nu," I say, laughing, "Dogs don't hum! They go arf, arf, or grr or bow-wow." Blank stares. "No, Mrs. Reed (or Mrs. Clela or just Teacher), hum, hum." They actually believe it! So I'm left with the notion that while beauty is in the eye of the beholder, animal noises are definitely in the ear of the beholder and I suppose to my Romanian students a barking dog is silly indeed. Why doesn't he just hum?