How to Write the Sound of a Kiss


In English we have a few different ways to write the sound of a kiss: muah, smack, xxx. They get the idea across, but none of them imitate the actual sound of a kiss. Other languages have the same problem. In Thai it's chup, in German, schmatz, in Greek, mats-muts, in Malayalam, umma, in Japanese, chu. There are two common elements in kiss words across languages. First, a kiss word will usually have a sound made by pressing the lips together (m, p, b), which approximates the lip pursing of a real kiss. In addition, or instead, it may have a sharp, "noisy" sound (ch, ts, k) that approximates the air intake "click" of a real kiss.

What's needed for a true kiss sound is a way to represent the smacking sound caused by the intake of air through closed lips. And linguistics has one! The kiss sound is technically a bilabial lingual ingressive click. "Bilabial" because of the lips, "lingual ingressive" because the air intake is caused by a pressure drop in the mouth caused by action of the tongue (in other words, sucking) and "click" for the pop of release from the pressure change. There are languages in the Tuu and Kx'a language families of Southern Africa that use this sound. So the International Phonetic Alphabet, the standard for representing the sounds of the world's spoken languages, has a symbol for it. This is how you write a bilabial click:


This is how you pronounce it, in the word aʘa.

This Valentine's Day leave the "mwah"s and the "XO"s behind and impress your love with the real thing, sealed with a ʘ.

Eye-Related Idioms From Around the World, Illustrated

"Apple of my eye." "Feast your eyes on this." "I have eyes in the back of my head." English has quite a few idioms that include the word "eye." But it's not the only language that does.

Contact lens retailer Lenstore gathered and illustrated 10 eye-related idioms from around the world that don't exist in English, which you can scroll through in the interactive infographic below or view here. In Spanish, the saying "Me costó un ojo de la cara," translated as "It cost me an eye from my face," means "to buy something that was extremely expensive." It's similar to the English idiom "It cost me an arm and a leg." In German, "Tomaten auf den Augen haben" ("To have tomatoes on the eyes") means "failing to spot something obvious."

The wonderful world of idioms stretches far beyond just eyes, though. Here, you can find out the origins of horse-related idioms like "hold your horses," and here you can learn about strange international rain-related idioms, like Greece's particularly peculiar "It's raining chair legs."

Learn more about how different cultures view the eye through the lens of these unique idioms below:

[h/t Lenstore]
Afternoon Map
The Literal Translation of Every Country's Name In One World Map

What's in a name? Some pretty illuminating insights into the history and culture of a place, it turns out. Credit Card Compare, an Australia-based website that offers its users assistance with choosing the credit card that's right for them, recently dug into the etymology of place names for a new blog post to create a world map that highlights the literal translation of the world's countries, including the United States of Amerigo (which one can only assume is a reference to Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer who realized that North America was its own landmass).

"We live in a time of air travel and global exploration," the company writes in the blog. "We’re free to roam the planet and discover new countries and cultures. But how much do you know about the people who lived and explored these destinations in times past? Learning the etymology—the origin of words—of countries around the world offers us fascinating insight into the origins of some of our favorite travel destinations and the people who first lived there."

In other words: there's probably a lot you don't know about the world around you. But the above map (which is broken down into smaller bits below) should help.

For more detailed information on the background of each of these country names, click here. Happy travels!


More from mental floss studios