Joyful noises

By Ingrid Fetell Lee

I’m  still trying to put my finger on what exactly is so joyful about Bzzzpeek, a site where you can play recordings of what children think animals sound like in different parts of the globe. Is it the sweet, earnest quality of the children’s imitations? The general cuteness of the site design? Or just the charm of being able to travel the world via quacks and ribbits? I don’t know, but the moment it appeared in my inbox (thank you, Jon), it brought a smile to my face.

The deeper question here is why we feel the need to imitate animal sounds when we have words to describe the animals. Before we had language, “Moo,” was a good way to alert neighbors to a food source. Now, when we can say, “There’s a herd of cows grazing just over the grassy knoll,” “Moo” seems terribly obsolete. Of course, there are still a few functional reasons to make animal sounds: birders do it to attract different species to look at, pet owners do it out of some empathic desire to connect with their pets. But why do children do it? I wonder if there’s some innate pleasure in imitation, or if there’s some other reason why we simply enjoy making animal sounds. Thoughts?

May 11th, 2010

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