SEx Education: It's a Scream

0 Conversations

Science Explained

It's a Scream

Being a SExpert can be a dangerous business. Who'd have thought that laconian's simple question could lead to injury...?

Why is it that, in a moment of terror, humans will scream? What'sthe point?

Why indeed? The first useful answer1 was supplied by Mr. Dreadful:

Like many things humans do it's most likely a throwback to pack behaviour... A predator comes along, the one who spots it screams or makes another loud noise, the others come over with their clubs and pointy sticks and defend their territory.

As well as alerting other members of the pack, screaming also has a second benefit, as Blatherskite the Mugwump explains:

It also serves to instill fear into the predator. It sends two messages at once: 'Look how powerful I am... I make big noises!' and, 'You'd better run... people with pointy sticks are on their way!'

Animals will roar at you in fright for the same reason. They may not be summoning anyone with pointy teeth, but they are trying to intimidate you.


Having answered the question of why we scream, Clive the flying Ostrich was moved to ask a
follow-up question:

I've often wondered where 'Ow!' comes from.

I remember hearing a next door neighbour's child, who must have been about 3 at the time, bump his head and, after looking puzzled about what was different (ie, the pain in his head), reached up and meekly said 'ow!' I suspect it must be learnt behaviour, but can anyone confirm this?

Well, the first thing to establish is, in the words of Ste:

Do different cultures with different languages say the same 'ow' noise?

And this is where things got a little more exciting. In the interest of scientific research, Whisky volunteered to:

...go and thump one of my French colleagues...

And the results of this vital and selfless piece of research?

They go 'Hey!' and thump you back!2

So, as Whisky tended to his rapidly developing black-eye, it was left to less-belligerent Researchers to provide some answers.

Spanish for 'ow!' is usually 'ai!'.
The French people i know all say 'Aii!' and in fact, after having lived here a few years, I quite often say 'Aii!' myself, so I suppose it must be partly learned/imitative behaviour.
Terri & Yoda

And why should these differences exist? Teasswill had this explanation:

Isn't the vowel sound produced on receiving an injury related to the involuntary intake of breath that accompanies it? Dependent on the native language and common vocal patterns, the sound will be slightly different.

So know you know why we scream, and why speakers of French, Spanish and English respond to minor injury in slightly different ways. Just don't try it out for yourself...


This article was based on a conversation at the SEx forum — where science is explained.

Why not pop over with your own questions? The pick of the bunch will feature in The Post's next

SEx Education rchive

Danny B.

Front Page 03.05.07

Back Issue Page

1Bob Stafford suggested that 'it would mess up
the scripts of the B movies if we did not', which is true, but not terribly helpful...
2smiley - **NOTE TO SELF** Next time, pick a smaller Frenchman...

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Conversations About This Entry

There are no Conversations for this Entry



Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry


h2g2 is created by h2g2's users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the Not Panicking Ltd. Unlike Edited Entries, Entries have not been checked by an Editor. If you consider any Entry to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please register a complaint. For any other comments, please visit the Feedback page.

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more