• author
    • Carolyn Wyler

      Columnist and C.E.O.
    • January 31, 2018 in Columnists

    “What’s in a name?”

    In 1861, the linguist, Max Müller compiled a list of six possible theories on the origins of the spoken word. In his publication, he listed the theories by their nicknames; Bow Wow, Pooh Pooh, Yo-he-ho, Ta Ta, La La and Ding Dong.

    Shama Lama Ding Dong. Did Otis Day and his Knights just enter the room? Seriously though, these theories are real. I could not make this stuff up. Go ahead. Look them up. I’ll wait.

    These scientific theories, as weird as they sound, speculated on how speech may have come about.

    1). The Bow Wow theory was onomatopoeic-the mimicking of sounds of dogs, birds and other noises. (I personally think they were barking up the right tree when they came up with this one).

    2). Pooh Pooh is a theory based on spontaneous sounds. created from pain or excitement. (I wouldn’t necessarily pooh-pooh this one either). Makes perfect sense to me… Ahhh sh*t! I just slammed my hand in the door).

    3). Yo-He-Ho theorized that grunts and groans from physical labor, transformed into buff, muscular, sweaty men, um…. words, I mean they transform into words. (Is it getting hot in here)?

    4). The Ta Ta theory is not, boys and girls, what you are thinking. Ta Ta is the idea that sounds are made by mimicking physical gestures. For example, the tongue moves up and down copying the movement of a hand as it waves…Ta Taaaaa! I did it!

    5). The Ding Dong postulates (again, it has nothing to do with body parts — SMH) an idea that sounds are made in harmony with the world. “You may say I’m a dreamer…and the world will live as one.”

    6). The La La theory has to do with sounds of play, song or love. (Not a land that many people live in).

    In  “Charles Darwin’s Notebook,” Darwin discusses these theories as well. “He [also] noted the physical connections between words and sounds and drew parallels between language and music, and asked: ‘Did our language commence with singing-is this the origin of our pleasure in music-do monkeys howl in harmony?’ (Barrett, Paul. et al. eds. Charles Darwin’s Notebooks, 1836-1841. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press and British Museum (Natural History), 1987.)

    Well, duh! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that The Monkees do howl in harmony. I have listened to them many times, especially as a teenager, and “I’m a believer.”

    In his book, “Descent of Man,” Darwin described how language evolved through natural selection. If this is true, however, I am not sure how certain people made the cut. In 45’s case, my most educated guess is that Trump paid him off.

    Lilly Tomlin, the comedian came up with her own theory of how language began. “Man invented language so he could complain.” (“Not a doctor”…or a scientist, but I do like the way she thinks). It’s not healthy to keep things all bottled up, but the opposite is also true. Too much negativity drains the soul.

    There really is no way to prove any of these theories, scientists say. It’s not like these ancient people had any form of a recording device, smartphone, or video cameras, though I personally don’t know how they survived without them. Oh wait, they didn’t. Neither will I, however, even with the help of Siri to save me from potential disasters.

    Through years of study in comparative philology and linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, and psychology, scientists, whether you believe in them or not, have come up with some interesting inconclusive conclusions of the origin of the word. The bible says, “In the beginning was the word.” That’s it, end of discussion. Science leaves it open for debate.

    Regardless of how, or why they came about, words are just words until someone gives them meaning. A four-letter word such as rose, could easily be called pooh, and pooh could be called a rose, but… would it really smell as sweet? THAT is the question.

    In today’s society, there is an abundance of words — words from various cultures and countries, words expressing emotions, difficult to pronounce words, really really big words, simple words, beautiful and loving words. There are also ugly, hateful words, disgusting words, and they are everywhere. Whether it is a “rose” pulled out of a monkey’s butt, randomly tossed around his cage (or, for additional points, flung at another monkey), or a congratulatory “pooh” thrown to a competitor in an ice-skating competition by their fans, words are being flung about everywhere, with no thought or concern.

    Each individual is given a limited supply of words before they die. Don’t waste them. Use and choose them wisely.

    With the evolution of words, some of them have changed from their original connotations. Some of these have become four-letter words; words that are full of isms — negativism, sexism, racism, and prejudice-ism. Words such as gay, alienate, republican, democrat, Christian, Mexicans, Muslim, African-American/black, woman, and snowflake, just to name a few.

    “Call me Ishmael,” or any one of the above names: If you call me a snowflake, I will not be offended. A unique, beautiful, intricate crystal, that quietly descends from the sky, providing sustenance (water) to everyone, indiscriminate of person. But, do not even think about hurting my family, friends, or those I care about. With a little help from my friends, we will generate a vicious storm, “one such as has never been seen before.” “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible,” but “we the people,” the minorities, the downtrodden, “in order to form a more perfect union,” will gladly claim responsibility.

    “I am (insert your own “expletive” here…) woman, hear me roar!”




    • Very well written and entertaining!! Great “words”!

      • Terri Connett

      • February 2, 2018 at 6:56 am
      • Reply

      Great piece, Carolyn! I like the “funny” along with the “informative.” 🙂

        • Carolyn Wyler

        • February 2, 2018 at 1:15 pm
        • Reply

        Thanks Terry

      • Shirley Welton

      • February 6, 2018 at 1:34 pm
      • Reply

      Interesting, humorous, and informative. Liked it.

        • Carolyn Wyler

        • February 6, 2018 at 1:48 pm
        • Reply

        Thanks Shirley!

      • Maya Spier Stiles North

      • February 11, 2018 at 7:17 am
      • Reply

      Ta-ta and Pooh-Pooh. Our origins are scatological. Oy. 😉

        • Carolyn Wyler

        • February 11, 2018 at 9:42 am
        • Reply

        Yes they are.

      • Shirley Welton

      • July 9, 2018 at 12:58 pm
      • Reply

      It is very good. Humorous as well as well-written.

    Leave a Comment