What Does the Fox Say? Onomatopoeia & the myth of pure language

This weekend my sons have been belting out lines from the Norwegian duo Ylvis’s viral video, “What Does the Fox Say?” Fortunately, a student in my seminar had introduced me to the video last week, so I was able to impress my sons by joining in. “You know that song?” Zac asked incredulously, to which I replied, “Joff-tchoff-tchoffo-tchoffo-tchoff!” Like 3 million others, I found the video to be funny and infectious—an irresistible sing-along song the likes of which I haven’t enjoyed since […]

Earth receive two honored guests

Earth, receive an honoured guest: William Yeats is laid to rest. Let the Irish vessel lie Emptied of its poetry. – W. H. Auden, “In Memory of W. B. Yeats” We lost two great writers recently: Elmore Leonard and Seamus Heaney. It would be hard to think of two celebrated contemporary writers whose styles differ more. American novelist Leonard wrote taught, stark, hard-boiled crime fiction that makes your heart race, while Irish poet Heaney wrote rich, sensory, densely layered poetry […]

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