This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.



Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Nuts and Bolts: a guide to bird song.

The voice of the herring gull, according to experts Lars Svensson and Peter J Grant, who wrote the excellent Collins Bird Guide, is 'a strident kyow, repeated and loud when used as an alarm. In anxiety a distinctive gag-ag-ag. Familiar exalted 'laughing' display call is a loud deep and clanging aau...kyyau-kya-kya-kya-kya-kya kya...kyau.'

Now, I call that a simply heroic attempt. Look at the careful hyphenation; look at the use of a bold font; look at the use of the word exalted (a seagull! Exalted!). I am genuinely filled with awe and admiration.

Here is a recording of a herring gull call:



...and I'm afraid I have to say that, for all the skill and dedication of Svensson and Grant, the description isn't actually very effectively...descriptive, is it?

Though it's most definitely not the writers' fault.

Let's have a look at the entry for the House Sparrow.

A great variety of simple chirping or chattering sounds, varied in details according to situation and mood. During courtship, long series of well-spaced monosyllabic chirps slightly varied throughout, e.g. chilp chev chilp chelp chürp...in irritation, typical rattling cher'r'r'r'r'r.

And here is the real thing:


Now, I'm pretty certain that no one on Earth could have done that description better - but it does show the sad limits of the alphabet, doesn't it.

Mind you, YouTube is fabulous.

Word To Use Today: errr...something in either Herring Gull or House Sparrow? Chelp!


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