Page:Essays on the Chinese Language (1889).djvu/155

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On the Interjectional and Imitative Elements.

The cricket is called si-su (蟋蟀) in Mandarin, sik-sut (or sik-tsut) in Cantonese, and ssŭ-tszĕ in the Ningpo dialect. Another name for it, common in North China, is ch'ü-'ch'ü (蛐蛐). These sounds are plainly attempts to imitate the call of the cricket, what we call its chirr, as in the expression "not a cricket chirr'd," and the French call its cri-cri. The cicada is properly called ch'an (蟬) or shan, and the old pronunciation was apparently tzan or zhan, thus evidently imitative. It is also known as the ki-liu, from the ki-ri, ki-ri it repeats with painful iteration the whole long days of autnmn. This hoarse creature's din is to the Chinese a melancholy monotony, for it calls the hoar frost and warns them that the summer is past, the autumn going, and the winter at hand. A field cricket, as long as its mouth is above ground, screams la-la-la-la. From this arose its name la- la-ku, a name which seems to be given also in some places to a cicada. The cricket has also local names in several dialects, as mei-hi in that of Amoy, and these, too, are generally intended to imitate its chirring. The domestic goose has never had a character for tact or voice, and as to the latter, an old poet has said truly, "The goose but gaggelith in her gate." This gaggling is represented in Chinese by the sound ni (or gyi) repeated, and hence we find the goose called, for example in Mencius, the ni-ni-cho (鶃鶃者) or "cackler."

The crow of the domestic cock is expressed sometimes by kiu-kiu, but men also crow, and so kiu-kiu comes to mean to brag or boast. And sounds imitative of the twittering, chirruping chattering of birds are made to denote the prattling of children, the babbling of small-talkers, and the wrangling of the angry. Sounds like ni-nam, nan-nan, nang-nang, imitate the tedious twittering of various small birds. Hence they were taken to represent the chitter-chatter of small voices and the endless talk (語不了) of those who "chronicle small beer." The crows caw kua-kua, and hence they are called lao-kua, "old cawers." Fond of his name, the crow calls it out with wearisome repetition, and, like him, the cuckoo and and the poet each kua-kua's his own

name (詩人如布穀𧵳𧵳自名). As we speak of "Chough's