WHERE I come from dogs bark as regular dogs do, and when they do they say woof woof... generally. The smaller, terrier punching-above-his-weight may growl a ruff ruff, but in the English-speaking world our canine friends are generally singing (or barking) from the same hymn sheet. Ask a Brit, an American or an Australian and they’ll all tell you the same thing: dogs go woof woof.
Dogs say woof woof, cats meow, bees buzz, birds chirp or cheep, frogs croak and cockerels cock-a-doodle-doo. Simple really. It’s the noise animals make, or at least our interpretation of it. It’s called onomatopoeia and it uses the perceived sound of something to give us a word. Pretty much all 'animal noises' are based on onomatopoeia and it also gives us words like zoom, splash, smash, hurrah, rustle, hiccup and tick tock.
But it’s all down to perception and interpretation. In Finland for instance, much to my horror, dogs say hau hau. Dogs obviously make the same noise regardless of the country they’re in, but the language difference means it’s interpreted differently. This is worth further examination I thought. Finnish cats miau, bees bzz, birds tsirk or peep, ducks kvak and cockerels kukko kiekuu. I can live with this. It’s just the dogs that have a problem. Yet English-speaking horses (figuratively) neigh, while Finnish horses say iha-haa. Back on dangerous territory.
But spare a thought for the humble dog, faithful and beloved around the world. The difference between the English woof woof and Finnish hau hau are mild compared to the Greek gav gav and Japanese wan wan and French ouah ouah. The Japanese language, with its pitch-accent, gives the English speaker the most jarring interpretations of animal noises. Take the following: chu-chu, gaooooo, bu-hii bu-hii, kero kero and boon boon. Any guesses? If anybody got a mouse, tiger, pig, frog and bee in that order I’m putting money they’re from downtown Tokyo.
So the next time you’re taking a walk in the countryside on your holidays and a horse stares blankly at your 'neigh neigh horsey'. He’s not being rude, nor is he stupid, you merely don’t speak the right language.