Redefining Onomatopoeia

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“In its broader sense, onomatopoeia means using words in such a way that they seem to exemplify what they denote, not just in terms of sound but also of such qualities as pacing, force, touch, movement, or duration as well” (Hamilton 221).

This is probably the best definition of onomatopoeia I have ever been acquainted with.  Frequently, when one learns onomatopoeia it is excessively simplified.  One is taught that onomatopoeia are the words that imitate a sound (which is true and an important thing to know), but Hamilton gets more to the heart of the matter and complicates the term a bit more.  It isn’t just words like “woof, bang, zoom,” Hamilton explains that it is not limited to these words, but can be any as long as “they denote” in some way their meaning by how they sound.  I think the most important part of her definition is that it doesn’t focus just on examples of what onomatopoeia is, it explains their purpose: “a word or phrase that seems to imitate the sound it denotes” (Hamilton 221). 


Ally Hall said:

I wrote in my blog about this part of the definition as well and I also wondered why we're frequently taught the simpler definition of the word. I didn't even realize until just now that onomatopoeia meant more than just words that imitate sounds.

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