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Rooster Dialects and the Age of Information Posted by on Sep 7, 2015 in Archived Posts

Itchy Feet: Odd Bird Out


You know what I love about the internet? I love the fact that you can learn almost everything you need to know by just looking it up, and information about just about everything humanity has ever done is available instantaneously. The dumbest things can be checked and, in some cases, verified.

Take, for example, the comic above. When I created it, it was something that had been at the back of my mind for a long time. I always thought it was kind of hilarious that English had this long, absurd string of nonsense to describe what a rooster says when almost every other language simply represented it phonetically. Hah! English is so dumb sometimes. Like “tiddlywinks” and “blunderbuss,” I liked to think that “cock-a-doodle-doo” was just the bizarre fever dream of some old-timey Brit with a penchant for silliness. A part of me knew I could just go look it up – but often times, the truth is far more boring than whatever you imagine. Usually there’s some boring, perfectly reasonable explanation that pops the balloon of absurdity and brings everything funny crashing down to earth. I didn’t want it to turn out that “cock-a-doodle-doo” derived from the Old English word “doodle-oo,” slang for “twelve,” and “cock” came from “cockerel,” so it just was a term to measure the typical number of roosters on a farm. Ugh. Boring.

So I just pretended Wikipedia didn’t exist, wrote the comic, had a chuckle, and forgot all about it.

Until now.

When I sat down to write this post, over a year after this rooster comic was published, mild curiosity struck me. “Why is that?” I thought. “Why is it ‘cock-a-doodle-doo?'” I buckled to temptation, looked it up, and now I know.

And guess what? I was right.

Turns out Cock A Doodle Do is the name of a traditional English nursery rhyme from the 1700s. You’ve probably heard it, or something like it:

Cock a doodle do!
My dame has lost her shoe,
My master’s lost his fiddlestick,
And knows not what to do.

Apparently this sounded similar enough to the sound a rooster makes that someone just put one on the other, and it stuck. So there you have it: “cock-a-doodle-doo” is a bunch of British nonsense! There’s no rational explanation for it at all! How amazing is that?

By the way, be sure to visit the comments section of this comic, where you’ll learn what roosters say in about 10,000 other languages. Feel free to add to them in the comments below!

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About the Author: Malachi Rempen

Malachi Rempen is an American filmmaker, author, photographer, and cartoonist. Born in Switzerland, raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he fled Los Angeles after film school and expatted it in France, Morocco, Italy, and now Berlin, Germany, where he lives with his Italian wife and German cat. "Itchy Feet" is his weekly cartoon chronicle of travel, language learning, and life as an expat.

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