In an early attempt to learn Greek, shortly after we first met, Quentin started to read Aristophanes’ The Frogs in the original Classical Greek! After many fruitless hours spent trying to find the meaning of the frequently recurring words ‘βρεκεκέξ’ and ‘κουάξ κουάξ’ (vrekekex, kuax kuax) in dictionaries, he turned to me. The explanation was that it was the call of ‘Greek speaking’ frogs!
Quentin’s early adventures in the metaphorical land of the ancient Greek frogs brings me to the more obscure subject of the sounds by which animals are represented in different languages.
A frog croaks in English but to Greek ears it still sounds like ‘kuax’.
A dog in English guards his territory with a loud ‘woof, woof’ but in Greek his bark sounds as ‘gav, gav’.
To the English a duck’s voice sounds like ‘quack, quack’ while a Greek duck begs for food with ‘pa, pa’, from which incidentally the Greek word for ‘duck’ (papia) derived. A Greek duckling on the other hand is called ‘papi’ and its cries are ‘pi, pi’.
The sheep in the green fields of East Anglia ‘baa’ but their distant cousins on the less verdant Greek hills call to each other with a ‘be-e’.
Feline greetings, however, sound very similar, whether in Greek or in English. Perhaps, the domestic cat has found the secret of its very own lingua franca!