Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What Does the Fox Say?

Ylvis, a band out of Bergen, Norway, got some attention this fall with their song "What Does the Fox Say".  My host brother was pretty sure the title was something else which used a different F word. But that's beside the point.

Just to be clear, the whole song is absurd, and no one likes it for the lyrics, but rather for the strange noises and the rhythm.  So I feel stupid even explaining the point of the lyrics, but there will be a point.  They talk about the sounds animals make--cow: moo--cat: meow--dog: woof--etc.--and they ask what word do we use for the sound foxes make.  So there it is.

Anyway, one of the kids at the children's house was making animal noises but they sounded weird to me.  Come to find out that in Hungarian animal sounds are turned into different words.  Whereas our horses say "nay," Hungarian horses say "nee-haw-haw."  Whereas our pigs say "oink" theirs say "ruff ruff."  There are more I can't remember.  Go figure.

This sounds more absurd as I keep typing.  The point is that even sounds or words that we think would be universal across languages are actually quite different to people in different places. Even the "words" we use for animal sounds are different.

What will you do with this information? I don't know, maybe you'll feel more unsettled next time you sing Old McDonald Had A Farm or maybe you'll bring it up at parties to impress your friends.  Anyway, enjoy this porthole into living in another language!

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