Phonaesthemes and Sound Symbolism


No automobile company would ever put out a car named "Clonk." It would be laughed off the showroom floor, not because of the engineering, but because English speakers associate certain qualities with sounds. In the case of clonk, it's disastrously close to clunk, klutz, clang, clank. The association is not random, it's not etymological, and it's not rational. It depends on notional associations extended to already-established words. Corporations sometimes go to great expense to research names for their products to make sure they have the right sound symbolism and avoid clunkers like the new Ford "Clonk."

Three words with similar sound characteristics are given below. Add another three (or as many as you can) to the group which in your mind are associated with the shared sound. Then give a description, however general, to the meaning you associate with it.

fizzle, razzle, sizzle, _________________________________________

bluff, blurb, blunt, ___________________________________________


whiff, sniff, puff, ____________________________________________


flush, whoosh, swish, ________________________________________


spark, snicker, flick, __________________________________________


dangle, jingle, spangle, _______________________________________

Can you think of product names that send the wrong signals?