This nearly two-hundred-page book, is, of sorts, a reference book that explores onomatopoeia (words that sound like what they mean). It is written in an easy to read style and is quite engaging from the get-go.
The titles for each chapter inspire curiosity before you even begin to read the text. The eleven chapters do have explanatory subtitles as you get to them, but are, as listed:
- Aargh, miaow, ker-chung
- Eek, a mouse
- Throb, sob
- Jabber, natter
- Rattle, jangle, ding-dong
- Woops, yikes, hmm
- Slam dunk and the Big Bang.
This being the first hint of the author’s delightful sense of humour and obvious love of language, which permeates the text.
Lasserre reveals the background history to the development and use of language with onomatopoeic links, producing current theories and referencing through both the Notes and Bibliography sections at the end of the book. She discusses actual speech and spelling practice to explain how meaning is added to words being used, and the difference in interpretation depending on mother tongue. As I read, I became aware of the breadth of Lasserre’s linguistic understanding with many cultural examples given, including Indigenous Australian place names.
This book is one for anyone with an interest in words. It is extremely informative and interesting, simple to read and had me returning to sections to gather a deeper understanding of the text. I have a new understanding of the complexity of onomatopoeia, rather than the “it sounds like it means” thinking I have always had with words like squelch, eek, sproing and flap. I am now also thinking about the impact using these sound-based words can have on the Deaf trying to translate speech.
This is a book I will refer to when looking at language choices in text and as something interesting to flick through whenever I have a few spare minutes.
Reviewed by Leanne Caune
Rating out of 10: 8
Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Released: November 2018