When we think of ‘onomatopoeia’ we think of the sound and how a word fits to describe what’s heard, but for me there’s a more visual manifestation, as understood in Ideasthesia and in extreme cases Synaesthesia – how does the sound look or feel or even smell? If I think about the light around the moon, especially on a clouded night, I see echoes of light – transferring the descriptive norm to a place that visually fits in my mind, probably in the same way someone refers to ‘a ripple of applause’, taking an image and transferring it to sound.

Onomatopoeia in Sign Language fascinates me. The word ‘bomb’ is manifested by two fists inverting into each other before bouncing out with facial and breath ‘explosion’ effects, as if to express the whole process of the event. If someone or something is moving very fast away from you, speed is shown by foreshortening, placing your finger and thumb into a ‘smaller than’ maths symbol ( > ) leaving you and moving forward quickly. The facial expression would match that of someone running at great speed, battling wind (G force) and then adding the breathy blow of a ‘pow’ – like a bullet. These are just two examples of how sign can animate the image summed up by a word. And when we add this to ‘sound’ words like drill, ring, bang, tick, the vibro of the hand shape (i.e. length of time moving, speed of repeated move) gives a visual onomatopoeia that either matches the contextual subject or how we imagine the vibration to look as if close-up. For example, ‘ring’ may be a ‘phone’ hand shape, vibrating at the rhythm of the ringing it makes (‘brrriing-brrriing…brrriing-brrriing’); or a bell ringing may be held as a small servant bell; or even the long arm-swing of a school playground bell; and then there’s the ‘reaction’ ringing of tinnitus in your ear, which ‘screams’ as a long continuous ring (‘r’) extending from your ear.



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