The sound and (a little of) the fury

Spanish zumbar and English zoom, discussed recently, arose as similar imitations of a buzzing sound. Another sound word is Spanish abuchear, which conveniently matches English boo, as when people boo someone whose opinion they disagree with. In 1825, the Gramática para enseñar la lengua inglesa translated abuchear into English as ‘to hoot at.’ Interestingly, the b in abuchear, which combines with the following u to sound like English boo, wasn’t originally part of the word: abuchear is a compound of a and huchear ‘to cry out, shout, yelp.’ Spanish had made the verb huchear from the interjection hucho, which the Diccionario de la lengua española tells us is used “por el cetrero para llamar al pájaro’; in other words, in English words, hucho is ‘the sound that a falconer makes when calling to a bird.’ The Diccionario de la lengua española also tells us that hucho was based on the onomatopoeia uch, something unhelpful enough that you may feel like booing or may want to shout ¡uch!

© 2010 Steven Schwartzman

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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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