Hair of the Dog


If you read the previous entry, you know about how excited I was to hear my dog’s laughter.  If you didn’t, you’re probably confounded by that last statement.  It gets me thinking about the evolution of language and about where words come from in the first place.  And about why some words are considered dirty.

Mom.  Mother.  Matron.  Matriarch.  Grandma.  Mama.  Ma’am.  Woman.  Ooma.  There’s something about that mah sound that just sounds right when talking about your old lady, right?  It starts with the hum of a lullaby and then continues with the gentlest of vowel sounds.

It’s not just English either.  Almost every language uses that same sound to label dear old mom.  Check out this list for a ton of examples.

Not hard to see where a word like mom comes from.  It is, after all, the most common first word in the history of language.  Mah mah!

For something a bit more . . . challenging? imagine that you’ve just been involved in an accident, and you look down at the newly blooming road rash on your arm.  There’s a natural sharp intake of air.  Sounds like an inverted shhh.  And at times like this, you might utter sounds of frustration.  Not words yet, just hard consonants.  Kuh.  Dah.  Or tuh.

Let’s put those together now.

*sharp intake*  *harsh consonant*
Shhh. Tuh.

What does that sound like to you?  If you don’t get it right away, read it out loud.

Shhh.  Tuh.

And those sounds offend us.  If you are annoying me, I will shun you with that first sound.  Shhhhhhh.  And if you tick me off, I will growl and grunt those sweet gutteral tones.  Gah!  And that’s why a word that starts with fuh and ends with kah can offend soft sensibilities.

It’s crazy to think about, but at one time all words started from a purely phonetic sound.  Some words please us.  And some words offend, but they’re all from a universal place that ia common to the experience we all share on this planet.


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