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Off Kilter

September 30, 1998|ROY RIVENBURG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Tower of Babel II: Does an American dog bark the same as a German or Chinese one? Maybe not. According to language expert Nicole Cee, the sound that an animal makes depends on who's listening.

For instance, humans in Germany describe a dog's bark as "vow-vow," whereas Italians insist mutts go "bow-bow." In China, canines say "wung-wung" and in Arabic nations, pooches are said to bark with a guttural "aao-aao."

Other foreign animals also communicate in different tongues. Sheep in Germany and Italy say "maah-maah" instead of the English "baaa." Chinese roosters play reveille with a "goo-goo-loo" instead of our "cock-a-doodle-doo." And Arabic cats say "neow," not "meow."

The only creature whose sound is described identically in every language is the crow. It's always "caw caw."

Alarming Trends Department: Hasbro is about to unveil its new Gen. Colin Powell doll. We just pray that the 12-inch action figure won't try to launch a singing career like Barbie did. Barbie is releasing her first CD in October. Titled "Beyond Pink," the record includes a remake of the 1960s Turtles' hit "Happy Together."

We wonder whether it will sound as grating to German or Italian ears as it will to English ones.

A Rose by Any Other Name Department: Wedding announcement spotted on the society pages of the New York Times: "Wendi Beth Rose, daughter of Marshall Rose of New York and the late Jill Rose, [has married] the son of Joanna and Daniel Rose of New York. The bride has chosen to keep her maiden name."

Save the Date: This just in: Sept. 9 was National Procrastination Day.

Lunatic Fringe Department: A UFO researcher from Fallbrook says space aliens could be responsible for President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. The extraterrestrial matchmakers apparently kidnapped the president and first floozy, then bonded them together emotionally and physically. Why? Because manipulating human emotions is "a psychological Nintendo game" for space creatures.

Random Statistics Bureau: In divorce cases in which both parties want custody of the pet dog, the woman wins 81% of the time.

In other words, Hillary will get to keep Buddy.

Bumper Sticker Patrol: "I want to die in my sleep like my grandfather . . . not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car."

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Violinist Murdered for Practicing Too Much! All of Her 119 Neighbors Are Suspects" (Weekly World News)

"Apparently, her violin-playing was terrible," a policeman told WWN, "because, at one time or another, every single resident of her apartment building threatened to kill her if she didn't stop playing."

* Roy Rivenburg can be reached by e-mail at roy.rivenburg@latimes.com.

Unpaid Informants: Wireless Flash News Service, Language Lab, Hotline, the Realist, Walt Harper, Playboy, Anne Flippin

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