Sneeze like an Arab: Onomatopoeias in the Middle East

Published October 4th, 2015 - 04:17 GMT

Drip! Splash! BANG! These words convey sounds every English-speaker can identify. But how to communicate those sounds in Arabic? As if learning this language wasn’t enough of a challenge, turns out that describing how cats purr or balloons burst is a lexicon onto itself. It’s not just Arabic - sounds are said differently across languages. How will we ever achieve world peace when we can’t even agree on the sound of hiccups?

British physicist James Chapman is pursuing his doctoral degree and, in his down time, he draws adorable cartoons that show how different languages convey the common sounds that things make. Said differently, he illustrates onomatopoeia, issuing new comics every week on his tumblr site (chapmangamo) and his Facebook page (Soundimals). He’s now fundraising on Kickstarter hoping to publish a new book of illustrations titled How to Sneeze in Japanese. Al Bawaba brings you a sampling of his work for the lingo of this region. Did he get it right? BAM!  

 
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amazed in Arabic

You placed a bet at the Dubai World Cup (online through the US, of course, since gambling is illegal in the emirate!) and the Godolphin-trained thoroughbred you backed comes in first. What do you say in Arabic as you jump from your seat? Subhan’allah!

sound of applause in Arabic

Breathless from belting out "Enta Eih" on the latest Arabs Got Talent, you realize the crowd has gone wild and you soak in their loud applause, which to Arab ears sounds like "stah stah stah". (Take that,Nancy Ajram!)

Stomping in Arabia

Want to describe your annoying kid sister stomping around in her new high heels? Embellish your story with some "Takh takh takh" and your friends will get the picture.

How to sound really happy in Arabic

TGIT! It's Thursday in Jordan, and the weekend has begun! Run out of the workplace shouting "YAAAH!" (You won't be alone!)

how to scare animals away in Hebrew

Tired of cats crawling around your trash bin? In Cairo, tell them"kisht", and in Eilat they'll understand "kishta". Of course, splashing some water their way also works wonders.

how to laugh in hebrew

Are you laughing with me or at me? Most Arabs cop the English "ha ha ha", while Hebrew steals the name of a classic Cuban dance, and goes with "cha cha cha".

how to sneeze in turkish

Bring your hat when you head to the Turkish Ski Resort of Konakli, or you'll end up sneezing " ÖHÖ" as you slide down the slopes. If winter sports bring you to Lebanon, go with the Arabic "hatchoo" when you get the chills.

how to sound relieved in Arabic

You're exhausted and humbled by yet another challenging Arabic class, but at least now you know how to express your relief when it's over - "HAAUH!"

How to sniff in Arabic

Your Moroccan grandmother whipped up a spiced lentil stew. Lift the lid, stick your nose in the pot and inhale the heavenly aroma. Careful! If she hears your "shum shum" you'll be chased from the kitchen!

amazed in Arabic
sound of applause in Arabic
Stomping in Arabia
How to sound really happy in Arabic
how to scare animals away in Hebrew
how to laugh in hebrew
how to sneeze in turkish
how to sound relieved in Arabic
How to sniff in Arabic
amazed in Arabic
You placed a bet at the Dubai World Cup (online through the US, of course, since gambling is illegal in the emirate!) and the Godolphin-trained thoroughbred you backed comes in first. What do you say in Arabic as you jump from your seat? Subhan’allah!
sound of applause in Arabic
Breathless from belting out "Enta Eih" on the latest Arabs Got Talent, you realize the crowd has gone wild and you soak in their loud applause, which to Arab ears sounds like "stah stah stah". (Take that,Nancy Ajram!)
Stomping in Arabia
Want to describe your annoying kid sister stomping around in her new high heels? Embellish your story with some "Takh takh takh" and your friends will get the picture.
How to sound really happy in Arabic
TGIT! It's Thursday in Jordan, and the weekend has begun! Run out of the workplace shouting "YAAAH!" (You won't be alone!)
how to scare animals away in Hebrew
Tired of cats crawling around your trash bin? In Cairo, tell them"kisht", and in Eilat they'll understand "kishta". Of course, splashing some water their way also works wonders.
how to laugh in hebrew
Are you laughing with me or at me? Most Arabs cop the English "ha ha ha", while Hebrew steals the name of a classic Cuban dance, and goes with "cha cha cha".
how to sneeze in turkish
Bring your hat when you head to the Turkish Ski Resort of Konakli, or you'll end up sneezing " ÖHÖ" as you slide down the slopes. If winter sports bring you to Lebanon, go with the Arabic "hatchoo" when you get the chills.
how to sound relieved in Arabic
You're exhausted and humbled by yet another challenging Arabic class, but at least now you know how to express your relief when it's over - "HAAUH!"
How to sniff in Arabic
Your Moroccan grandmother whipped up a spiced lentil stew. Lift the lid, stick your nose in the pot and inhale the heavenly aroma. Careful! If she hears your "shum shum" you'll be chased from the kitchen!