Saturday, April 01, 2006

Pitter-Patter

I went to collect a book I ordered from town this morning. It arrived via Collissimo last week and as there was no one here to sign for it I had to collect it from the post office. They keep parcels for up to 15 days which is a bit unfortunate if you happen to have just gone on a three week holiday (I should be so lucky...) After this, goodness knows what happens to them. Perhaps they feed them to the sorting machines.

On the way there I passed a splendid and ancient cherry tree covered in white blossom. It chimed with the high-mounded clouds passing in the distance behind it and there was a bird sitting inside, singing its heart out, intoxicated by the perfume of blossom no doubt.

And talking of chiming, I passed the place where my daughter used to go to creche. It's a french-run institution called 'Petit Pas' and I started wondering, when I saw the sign, if this is where the word 'pitter-patter' derives from. I've searched the internet but can't find any reference to the origin of this word, although there are plenty of references to "the pitter-patter of tiny feet" which may suggest it is the correct derivation as 'petit pas' is French for 'little footsteps'.

There's a whole list of what are called 'jingle-jangle' words here. If you like lists you might also like to check out Vitamin Q which is compiled by the Scottish poet Roddy Lumsden. He hasn't posted many lists for a while, but I notice he's recently started posting again.

3 comments:

Andrea said...

that list is great. i just bookmarked it. thanks!

Clare said...

Interesting about the derivation of pitter patter - very convincing. I think I'd always assumed it was the sound that small feet make against the pavement (and raindrops against window panes) - but now I know better.

Jonathan said...

Hi, sorry for the slow response. I've been away for a while. Thanks for the comments.

andrea - yes, it's surprising how many words there are like that.

clare - I wonder if more of these onomatopoetic words derive from real word roots. It seems to me that some of them could be simply plays on language. There are other uses of pitter-patter as well, such as in patter-cake, patter-cake baker's man.