11 November 2016
'Honk, Conk and Squacket'... anyone?
Honk Conk and Squacket. Fabulous and Forgotten Sound-words from a Vanished Age of Listening is a compilation of sound-related words by researcher and sound recordist I. M. Rawes.
I. M. Rawes, aka Ian Rawes, is a former British Library Sound Archive colleague. He worked at the Library for years while building The London Sound Survey on the side. This is a unique online sound map documenting the sounds of everyday life in London. It includes urban field recordings made by the author, archival materials, photographs, illustrations and a related blog.
Honk Conk and Squacket explores the sounds of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and their surrounding socio-cultural context through what is often - notably in regard to the Victorian, pre-recording, era - the only evidence remaining: written documentation.
For this the author has investigated a myriad of sources including patents, dictionaries, glossaries and out-of-copyright period illustrations from the British Library collections.
The book works as a virtual audio nostalgia trip, laced with charm, humour and insight. On a more melancholy note, it touches on the ephemeral nature of everyday sounds and their eventual disappearance. I would recommend it as playful shared reading for the inevitable procrastination of Christmas and a must-reference volume for accurate historical sound writing.
Some sample entries:
Honk: was naval slang meaning to drink in an impressive way, echoic of the noise that eventually results. Early 20C.
Conk: is a large conch-shell of the genus Strombus, imported and then fitted with a mouth-piece. In former times it was used by fishermen as a fog-horn, producing as it did a loud and distinctive note on being blown. Late 19C. Cornwall.
Squacket: to quack as a duck; to make any disagreeable sound with the mouth. Late 19C. Surrey, Sussex and Somerset.
Talking-trumpet. Late 19C.
If you are interested in sound and would like to know more about the Library’s sound preservation programme to digitise the nation's rare and unique sound recordings check out our Save Our Sounds programme and #SaveOurSounds.