Q: I’ve heard Korean people describe a dog’s bark as “mung-mung” and a bee’s buzz as “wing-wing.” What’s up with that?

A: Well, until dogs and bees learn to speak in a language we understand, we humans have to make our best guess about what they’re saying. And we call ’em like we hear ’em. Since languages around the world contain different sounds, not everyone hears what comes out of a dog’s mouth as “woof.”

In South Korea, a cat says “ya-ong,” but that same cat says “nyaa-nyaa” in Japan. A pig says “kool-kool” in Korea, but “buu-buu” in Japan. In Korea, a sheep says “um-mae,” a frog says “gae-gool-gae-gool” and a mouse says “jick-jick.” But in Japan, you’d hear that as “maaaay,” “kero-kero” and “chu-chu,” respectively.

Some of these are massively different, but who’s to say any of them are wrong? Fido might have an opinion on the matter, but he’s not saying. Or at least not so we can understand.

Got a question about goings-on in the Pacific? E-mail Stacy Chandler.

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