Ultimate magazine theme for WordPress.

German Onomatopoeia: Where the Cow Says ‘Muh’ and the Dog ‘Wau’

Animal languages may be difficult to learn. The fact that the entire world, except for the three German-speaking countries, is messing them up speaks for itself. Once and for all: It is ‘Muh’.

A cow named Sandy who lives within the borders of Germany, Austria or the German-speaking part of Switzerland will get hungry now and then. When she does, she will say ‘Muh’. When she is thirsty, she will make her farmer aware of that issue by saying ‘Muh’. And once she believes she needs to be milked she will express that wish by saying ‘Muh’. When the vet puts on his rubber glove, ‘Muh’ is the usual reaction.

‘Muh’ with a Capital ‘M’

Let’s get the following out of the way: All of those transcriptions of cow language from the English-speaking world, Asia, Spain or Latin America are erroneous. Muh! Guys, it’s not ‘moo’, it’s not ‘momo’, even though the Japanese insist it is, and it’s not ‘meuh’ either, dear French friends. Je suis désolé. It’s ‘Muh’ with a capital ‘M’.

Let’s pick a dog. Jim, the terrier mix, does experience issues when he travels to the United Kingdom. First of all, they will lock him up for months, just in case he is the first dog in 150 years who has rabies. Secondly he will not be understood that well.

There are different ways to open doors. Picture by Fern Weirich

When he feels like playing with another dog he meets at Hyde Park, he will say “Wau”. By saying “Wau” again, he reiterates his wish to play. Or let’s say he wants to tell his owner someone is trying to break into the bed & breakfast place they are staying at, at 4 in the morning. In this case he would say “Wau”. And when he is ready to go to the Jazz Café in Camden, he is going to announce it by saying ‘Wau’.

Singing Pigs

His friends in England say ‘woof’. Those in Latin America ‘guau’, in Japan dogs actually say ‘wan’, while it is ‘meong’ in Korea, ‘blaf’ in the Netherlands, ‘voff’ in Iceland and ‘guk’ in Indonesia. ‘Guk’? Are you kidding me? ‘Wau’!

“The cow says ‘moo’, the sheep says ‘baa’, three singing pigs say ‘lalalala’.” This is what it says in the cutest toddler book ever, written and illustrated by Sandra Boynton from New Jersey. But it’s actually ‘Muh’, ‘Mäh’ and ‘Grunz’. Besides: The horse does not say ‘neigh’ either, but ‘Wieher’. Ask Jolly Jumper or the Pink Panther’s horse.

Let’s not even start with cats. They say ‘nyan’ in Japan and ‘yaong’ in Korea. But cat language actually sounds very similar in Germany, the English-speaking world and several other countries. ‘Miau’, the German version, is almost like ‘meow’ in English or ‘miaou’ in French. Oui, mes amis!

Advanced Onomatopoeia

In Germany, the duck says “Quak”, and so does the frog. The donkey says “i-a-i-a”, the rooster “Kikeriki”, the hen “Gak Gak”, the pig “Grunz” and the mouse ‘Piep”. So, please, lay and egg, have a cookie and study German animal language.

Of course onomatopoeia does not end there. Slamming a wooden door will sound like ‘Kawumm’ in German. Breaking it open might be ‘crac’ in French or maybe ‘Krack’ in German. Punching someone’s nose would sound like ‘Boing’ and kicking the ball ‘Kabolz’. Clicking the left mouse button to upload this Pulitzer Prize-worthy in-depth article full of wisdom sounds like this: ‘Klick’.