Friday, 28 November 2008

Vietnamese Onomatopoeia

I cant say 'onomatopoeia' but I know what it means. It is a word or group of words that imitates the sound it's describing, such as, 'boom', 'clank', or 'bang'. But more of this later.

Living here in Taipei one cannot help noticing the constant stream of motorbikes that zip in and out of traffic, twisting and turning, going up and down and around to get somewhere fast. To my ordered, sequential mind this equates to total chaos!

Just a few weeks ago I was in Vietnam on business and discovered that the chaos there was far worse than Taipei. As soon as I arrived at Hanoi the airport taxi driver had to maneuver carefully around two unconscious motorcycle riders whose bikes, loaded high with various goods, had bumped and spilled their loads all over the road.

Hanoi was worse than Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) with riders coming from all directions especially at intersections. Traffic lights seemed to be for reference only. But the real revelation about Vietnam's bikes were the horns. Everyone constantly toots, peeps and parps. Some prefer many short sounds - 'Peep Peep Peeeeeep'. Others prefer one long 'PEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!' While creatives have composed their own signature peep - 'Peep, Peee, Peee, Peee, Peee, Peeep!' Apart from the bikes most other vehicles have their own distinct horns, from the big bus yodelling, 'Par-AU-AU-AU-AU-Au-au.' To the old worn out horn that just never gets there, 'FLUR-R-R-Pppph.'

I found a small French owned cafe in the old part of the city and tried to write down all the horn sounds I could hear. Here they are illustrated with help from one of my 'Dangerous Boys'. Click on the picture to get a clearer image.