What does your cat say?

“I had a cat and the cat pleased me

Fed my cat under yonder tree

Cat went, “fiddle-i-fee.”

This folk song delights preschoolers because they already “know” that cats definitely do not go “fiddle-i-fee”!

In kindergarten, the cat goes “meow” and across the hall in French immersion, the cat goes “miaou”. In fact, most languages have similar sounds for our beloved kittens: German “miau”, Italian “miao”, Swedish “mjau”, Russian “myau”, Vietnanmese “meo” and in Estonian, a nasal “nau.”

English is a language that freely borrows and assimilates words from many languages. For example an “English speaking” dog might go “bow wow”, but it could just as easily  go “woof woof” like a Hebrew dog or even “ruff ruff.” (Perhaps it is a Scotty.) The French poodle goes “ouah ouah” and the Finish version is “vuff” or “rouf”. The German dog goes “wuff wuff” and his Spanish cousin says “guf guf”.

Sometimes the sounds animals make vary greatly from language to language. A North American pig goes “oink” but in Japanese it says “buu,” and in Swedish a pig gives a rather logical “noff” at the trough. In German a pig grunts “grunz.” In Albanian the chunky pig goes “hunk.”

Although English ducks merely quack, Danish ducks go “rap”. A French duck goes “coin” and a Turkish duck says “vak.”

Frogs have a bewildering variety of sounds: English “ribbit”, Turkish “vrak.” In German frogs croak “kwaak” and in Hungarian “brekeke.” Chinese frogs go “guoguo”, Korean frogs say “gae-gool.” In Japan frogs say “kerokero”  and Thai frogs say “op op” as they hop. A Polish frog calls “kum kum” and Italian frogs say “cra cra.”

Young children seem to delight in imitating the sounds of animals. Of course, older “kids” sing out, “What does the fox say?”