Animal noises from around the world: woof!

The noise made by man’s best friend is the subject of this week’s tour round the animal noises of the world:

‘Woof’

"Terrier mixed-breed dog" by Chris Barber - Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Terrier_mixed-breed_dog.jpg#/media/File:Terrier_mixed-breed_dog.jpg
A dog

To imitate the barking noise of a dog most modern English children would use ‘woof woof’ a sound which first emerged in the early nineteenth century. It is not unusual for ‘arf arf’, ‘ruff ruff’ or, when describing a small dog, ‘yap yap’ to be used, however ‘woof, woof’ appears to be the most prevalent in modern children’s literature. Pre-nineteenth century ‘bow-wow’ was much more widely used. ‘Bow-wow’ was first recorded in the 1570s and a nursery rhyme from The Real Mother Goose published in 1916 indicates the common usage of bow-wow

Bow-wow-wow,

Who’s dog art thou?

Little Tom Tinker’s dog,

Bow-wow-wow’.

Yet today most English children’s books and comics now use ‘woof woof’ – for example in Enid Blyton’s classic ‘Five on a Treasure Island’ (1942), Timmy the dog frequently utters a ‘woof’.

In French, they use ‘wouah wouah’ and this has been the case since at least the 1930s when Tintin’s faithful canine companion Snowy was often found barking at baddies or indicating a clue in this fashion. Similarly the Dutch use ‘woef’ or ‘waf’, the Spanishwou wou’ and the German’s ‘wuuf’. The Scandinavian languages use a ‘v’ sound instead of the ‘w’ thus a Danish dog says ‘vov’ and in Swedish it is ‘voff’. Croatian also uses a ‘v’ sound, employing ‘vau vau’, which in turn is similar to the Italianbau bau’.

Interestingly the Greeks and Russians agree that a dog barks ‘gav gav’, whereas in Turkey they opt for the similar ‘hav hav’. In Japan a dog says ‘wan wan’ and in Mandarinwang wang’, whereas the Korean’s opt for the very different ‘meong meong’ and in Thai they use ‘hong hong’.

It is interesting to note that only Italian (bau bau’) uses a sound like ‘bow-wow’, which was more commonly used in pre-nineteenth century England. It is possible that like in English the modern dog sound has changed in other languages too and perhaps become more generic as characters such as Snowy became known around the world. A ‘woof woof’ type sound is the most widespread dog sound yet, as discussed above, alternatives persist.

What noise do you use for a dog? Please leave a comment!

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