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Kukuriku: Roosters of the World Unite

Some things surpass cultural differences, and onomatopoeias are some of them. Take what the rooster has to say.

Elon Gilad
Elon Gilad
Elon Gilad
Elon Gilad

Onomatopoeias, words that sound like that which they represent, vary from people to people. Take for example the cry of the rooster, which in the English speaking world we call cock-a-doodle-doo. The Chinese say gūgūgū, the Italians chicchirichí, Swedes kuckeliku, and the Germans kikeriki, but Israelis say kukuriku.

This apparently started in Greece, where the word for rooster's cry was koukouríkou. That was carried by Greek Orthodox priests to Russia, where the word became kukarekú.

From Russia, it migrated to Poland where it is kukuryku. Russian Jews living in Poland adopted it from their goy neighbors and that is how it entered Yiddish.

From the Yiddish, it entered Hebrew at the end of the 19th Century by way of a children’s song by the name "Kukuriku." It is used in the literature very early on in the works of the Hebrew writers Mendele Mocher Sefarim and S. Y. Agnon.

The rooster's cry is far from being the only cross-lingual onomatopoeia, though it's one of the more complex ones. A baby's cry is also famously presented in almost the same way in multiple languages the world wide, that one would not suspect of cross-pollinating each other – for instance, it's "wah-wah" in both English and Mandarin, ua-ua in Russian, owe-owe in Indonesian dialect and so on. Laughter is also represented as ha-ha almost world-wide (kha-kha in Hebrew), and anywhere in the world you scream "Oy!", you will be understood to be seriously peeved.

A giant blue rooster sets off the somber military monuments in London's Trafalgar Square, July 25, 2013.Credit: AP
A rooster disrupting a Bnei Sachnin soccer game.Credit: Ancho Gosh

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