Quackin’

Growing up Indian, my father’s word was the determined truth. He often said, “Learn a language from a native, but grammar from a foreigner”.

This adage never failed, I exceeded in assimilating the medium of instruction, English, with our national language, Hindi. Neither did the distinction between Ma’s Dogri nor Baba’s Bengali, distract my curiosity.

I learned quite early on that in my bubble, I am unfailingly polite and invariably aloof to cultures and kinds.

Here, we say Namaste (bow to the divine) to everyone!

Why not? Does a sheep sound different in Spanish?

The root cause of this confusion is how we hear not what we speak. We rarely rely on our senses!

It is easy to quack this chaos, simply, by listening.

The cows, whether English or Spanish vocalize the same sounds ‘moo’ or ‘mu’. The cat too, ‘meows’ for the native English speakers or for the Spanish ‘miaus’.

Whichever taste your tongue may prefer, our actions have few repercussions on how the animal kingdom communicates. Our brains can only fragment the fractions between words, unsounded though clear. Case in point, the onomatopoeia for the sound of a duck is ‘quack’ in English, but ‘cua cua’ in Spanish.

Sound onomatopoeias are similar across many languages though vary with each bite, ‘nomnomnom’ or ‘namnamnam’. The word onomatopoeia, originally Greek, seceded into the English language through Latin in the 16th century, literally translating to ‘word-making’ (‘onoma’ / name + ‘poios’ / making).

Perhaps, we would be better off speaking like animals.

Or if I listen closely and patiently everything is either ‘baah baah’ or ‘beh’ ‘beh’.

Kaput.