On-o-mat-o-poe-ia! One-to-ma-to-pizza! I-am-gonna-pay-ya! I love the word, and can’t resist playing with it. It comes from Greek and means ‘word making’. Onomatopoeia imitates in sound the thing it describes, and because it uses musical effects it’s perfect for poetry. Children make new words using it: quack quack, bow wow, moo cow, brmm-brmm, and nee-naw is an excellent word for a fire engine.

Widely used in primitive language, it’s at the root of many English words, words like wind, owl, cuckoo, sizzle. A snake hisses and slithers, like the sound of its voice and movement in sand or grass. In parts of south-west Britain plimsolls are known as daps, so ‘Get your daps on!’ means ‘Hurry!’ No poet uses onomatopoeia throughout a poem, and most would be unconscious of using it most of the time.

I can spot examples in ‘The Field Mouse’ where sound suggests meaning. It happens in words like ‘summer’, ‘hums’, ‘drum’, ‘crushed’, ‘rumour’, and in a phrase like ‘stammering with gunfire’.