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The sound of fireworks

Every year on the 5th November, people in Britain commemorate the Gunpowder Plot, a failed attempt by Guy Fawkes and his gang to blow up the Houses of Parliament. We celebrate this lucky escape by burning an effigy of Fawkes on a large bonfire and setting off fireworks to imitate the explosion, had it happened. As I watched our local fireworks display last Saturday, I was almost deafened by the amazing and sometimes quite scary sounds each firework made. I realized there is a whole group of onomatopoeic words which we use to describe such noises. Here are a few of my favourites:

bang, whoosh, crackle, fizz, swirl, whistle, flash, burst, sputter, hiss, whizz

Although the Macmillan Dictionary definitions of the these words may not include any reference to fireworks, it is worth learners of English knowing that all these words are often used by native speakers in this specific context.

So next time you see a fireworks display, you can whistle, fizz and swirl to your heart’s content.

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Beth Penfold

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