Bam! Boom! Onomatopoeia!
November 03, 2006
Onomatopoeia is not a word you use everyday, yet hardly a day goes by that we don't use several onomatopoeic words and phrases in daily conversation. Onomatopoeia refers to words that imitate the sound they represent such as "kerplunk" or "boing" in English or "doki doki" in Japanese. We might not hear onomatopoeic words used in formal written speeches so often, but we certainly hear them used in everyday conversation. I am not a linguist (so please chime in if you are one; love to hear from you) but perhaps this is one reason why informal "naked presentations" or good impromptu or extemporaneous speeches are often more interesting or engaging than speeches which are merely read word for word from a script. In the U.S., celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse is famous for punctuating his presentations — in his case entertaining cooking demos — with the onomatopoeic phrase "Bam!". Emeril's use of "Bam!" is well documented and has become a signature of sorts for him. I do not have a video of him actually using "Bam!" but this promo video for his show gives you an idea of his presentation style on the show. Of course, this guy was know for this onomatopoeic phrase long before Emeril.
I knew of Emeril's "Bam!" but was unaware of Steve Jobs' "Boom!" I had never noticed that Jobs peppered his speech with "Boom!" in his demos, though I certainly have noted here many times that his tone is almost always informal and conversational. Jobs is using the onomatopoeic word, probably unconsciously, to emphasize the quickness of a process or the ease of a task: "Step one, step two, and Boom! — There it is!" At other times Jobs seems to use "Boom!" as a kind of "voilà!" or "presto!" or "ta-da!"
There is really nothing educational about this post of mine today. I just thought you would enjoy watching Steve Jobs say "Boom!" in myriad ways. So there you have it — boom! Enjoy the video below:
Japanese is (I recall) interesting from a linguistic point of view in that it has lots of onomatopoeaic words that are not things like Bam and Boom but are actually more useful.
I wonder if people use these kind of verbal punctuations instead of using hand gestures. Of course you could go Bam *and* wave your hands....
Posted by: L. | November 04, 2006 at 07:55 AM
I have noticed how Jobs always uses "Boom!" in his speech before, when I first saw the WWDC keynote.
Onomatopoeia is actually a greek word that means "making of words".
Posted by: Sugar | November 05, 2006 at 12:35 AM
You might enjoy this site someone has setup http://www.boomcounter.org - see you there next Stevenote...
Posted by: Russell Greenwood | November 06, 2006 at 07:18 AM
Steve appeared no less annoying than someone who says "like" all the time, or "So..." at the start of every sentence. It cheapens the effect to use it so often, much like a modern action movie with explosions throughout.
Posted by: Jeff Langr | November 18, 2006 at 06:57 AM