Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On-A-Manna Who?

We just watched the movie Short Circuit, one my husband and son have wanted to see. My daughter, at fourteen, is at an age where a campy 80’s robot movie is the perfect target for snarky comments. With every wisecrack we had to warn her not to spoil it for everyone else. But she did make one comment that struck me.

There’s a scene where the robot Number 5 is parachuting from a bridge and he yells, “Wheeeeee!”

Then right away my daughter snapped, “Robots do not use onomatopoeia.”

Something about that comment surprised me. Never mind the fact that even though the robot was using facial expression and following butterflies, the thing that bugged her the most was that he said wheeeee. What really impressed me was how effortlessly she recalled the word onomatopoeia.

I can appreciate reading and using examples of some cool literary devices, but the names don’t exactly roll off my tongue. I can’t remember them without first saying something like, “You know, whaddya call it…whaddya call it…that thing where the word sounds like the sound?”

Then of course I got distracted wondering whether the expression wheeeeee actually is an example of onomatopoeia. Is it meant to indicate the sound of wind rushing past our ears when we’re enjoying something like swinging, or parachuting off a bridge…wheeeeeeeee! (Of course, if we weren’t enjoying it we’d probably yell something more like aaaaaaaaaagghhh!) Or is it just an expression of emotion that only counts as onomatopoeia once we try to spell out the sound in writing?

So you can see the kind of thing that occupies my brain. At least I don’t spend time thinking up cute alliterative animal names like Wilhelmina Wombat or Sammy Slug. Oops, I just did.

16 comments:

PJ Hoover said...

Very clever girl! I am totally impressed!

msprimadonna67 said...

As an English teacher, that's the kind of thing that makes my day (and, by the way, the kind of thing that my 15-year-old thinks makes me a dork!) The good news is that she is also a self-proclaimed dork, so we enjoy those things together: )

Angela said...

I love being a dork.
We've been watching old movies with our kids too. I'm going to track down this one.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

She sounds like a super-smart cookie!

Suzanne Casamento said...

That's a good question - is "Wheeeee!" onomatopoeia or not? Does anybody know?

Maybe we should ask your daughter. In fact, forget it. She already told us it is. Case closed.

Kelly said...

I could never have it roll off my tongue either, I have definite word find problems!
But see, kids soak it all in and can spurt out great vocabulary!

Rebecca Ramsey said...

What a smarty!
Good for her!

adrienne said...

PJ, Green Girl, Becky - Yep, she's pretty sharp! Thanks.

msprimadonna67 - Hey, as long as you've got something to share! :-D
Maybe dorkiness is relative...

Angela - It's a fun one! The scientist's sidekick cracks me up.

Suzanne - I'm sure she'd agree with your logic :)

Kelly - I wish I could still do that. Now it's hard enough just remembering phone numbers!

K said...

That is awesome word usage. Someobdy has been paying attention in in english.

I love Short Circuit. I is my favorite all off campy 80s movies.

Stacy Nyikos said...

Onomatopoeia is my favorite literary device. I teach it to kids when I do school visits. Even kindergartners. There's one scene where sea lions ROAR and I tell them that's an onomatopoeia. They love coming up with their own after that. It's just such a fun thing and word to say!

LW said...

Wilhelmina Wombat that is too funny...

Onomatopoeia is one of my favorite words ....When my kids were little we use to play the onomatopoeia game. Which was simple making or finding onomatopoeias.

Louise

Debbie said...

My kids love that word too. Me? I can never remember it.

adrienne said...

K - I think she loves English but doesn't know it yet.

Stacy - It is fun! We started thinking up all the airy sounding words that begin with wh...

Louise - I admit I kind of like Wilhelmina Wombat :)

Debbie - It is a great word. Even fun to spell!

Rena said...

Your kids sound awesome, Adrienne!

Mary Witzl said...

My daughter (also 14!) knows this word too, but remember: our kids are the kids of writers. If we were butchers, they'd probably know the difference between a rump cut and brisket. (I'm playing the devil's advocate here. No question about it: our kids are sharp.)

Because I'm a nerd, I have to point out that 'whee' is an exclamation and not an onomatopoeia. It would be an onomatopoeia if it were used to describe a particular sound.

adrienne said...

Rena - Thanks! (I think they're pretty cool) :)

Mary - That's just the thing we were debating, afterward...
Now to learn the difference between a rump cut and a brisket...
:-D