Ka-blaht ka-blaht ka-blaht.
All kids play, but for boys of a certain age, it’s not enough just to use their imaginations, they have to use their mouths, too, to make sound effects.
How can you repel a mutant robot invasion with a pulse rifle if you can’t create the “peeeehw!” it makes when it’s fired?
Or when a rocket-car banks hard around a turn to escape the sinister band of ninja-commandos who are pursuing it, it has to go “ssssssssssssshhhhhhhwwww” or the whole thing just doesn’t seem real.
As alien as these sounds seem to adult ears – even the sounds of aliens themselves – to boys they are as distinctive as bird calls.
(And for non-boys, just as hard to mimic.)
There’s the rumble of an interstellar battleship positioning itself in orbit around a moon so it can attack a colony of space pirates, the blast of a hundred alien death rays, the slicing whoosh of a samurai master’s sword – an infinite number of sounds to match the infinite number of battles that must be fought to save humanity and the extraterrestrial alliance it’s part of.
Besides, if they don’t do it, who will? Girls? Not typically.
Which explains why boys seem to have no choice but to spend so much of their non-school, non-sleeping, non-chore time facing down foes with their boy-chirps and boy-caws.
It also explains why of all the things that come out of their mouths, these types of sounds are among the most frequent, ranking somewhere between questions that start with “Can I…” and the phrase “But that’s not fair” in terms of overall popularity.
Not that boy sounds should be judged too harshly, however.
In jazz, scat is an art form, and singers who can convincingly communicate without using actual words are thought to be among the very best. To put it another way, who could look down on musical icons like Cab Calloway and Ray Charles who surely owe their adult-success to all those hours they spent as kids bouncing around the house beating back bad-guys with a “ka-posh,” a “zowwwwwwww” and a “kgle-kgle-kgle”?
Or what about that guy from all those “Police Academy” movies: he’s made an entire career out of making sound effects with his mouth.
There are plenty of other real-world implications to consider, too.
Studies often show that girls are more verbal than boys, and therefore better at communicating. But maybe that’s because experts are measuring language, not sounds?
Every parent knows that boys are consistently discouraged from making strange noises in public because most people find them distracting, embarrassing and/or gross. Often, all three. But perhaps if boys were shown ways they could use their boy sounds in more recognizable and constructive ways they’d be revealed to be just as communicative as girls?
Plus, they wouldn’t have to rely as much as they do on shrugs, nods and blank stares, which would be really helpful:
PARENT: How was school?
PARENT: Did you turn your assignment in?
PARENT: Do you have any homework you have to do tonight?
BOY: [BLANK STARE]
On the other hand, if boys did utilize their sounds more effectively, it would put moms at a decided disadvantage because they don’t seem to be anywhere near as fluent as dads:
MOM: What’s that?
DAD: Junior’s downstairs playing “Star Wars.”
MOM: It sounded like he hurt himself.
DAD: No, he just severed Jabba The Hut’s head with a lightsaber so now he’s hungry.
MOM: How can you tell?
DAD: Hear that “beeeeeeee-ghewwww?”
DAD: That’s a light saber being turned on.
DAD: And that “grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”? That’s Jabba gasping for air through a slit in his throat.
DAD: And that deep, prolonged sigh means “I could really use a peanut butter sandwich about now.”
MOM: That’s amazing. Especially since you never seem to understand half of what I say and I’m speaking English.
Eventually, like the desire to play with action figures, wear superhero costumes outside of Halloween and collect Pokemon cards, the need boys have to make their own sounds begins to fade, to the point where they are mostly silent by the time they reach adulthood.
(Except when they’re watching sporting events or playing video games.)
And yet even though the need fades, it never really goes away entirely. Instead, it lays dormant, waiting – sometimes aging, sometimes festering – until it’s reborn as the need old men have to make old man sounds — the “glurps” and “pffts” and “grgle-grgle-grgles” that are as distinctive to them as they are alien and indecipherable to the rest of us.