Where did we get the idea that sparkling makes a sound?
May 14, 2009 9:04 PM   Subscribe

I was reading this Cracked article and it raised an interesting point. "Bling" comes from the sound of gold or diamonds sparkling... except light doesn't make any noise when it reflects off something. That association is surely older than hiphop, but how much? Where did it come from?
posted by borkingchikapa to Society & Culture (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
That association is surely older than hiphop
It is?

Both the OED and Merriam-Webster have this term dated to 1999.
posted by Flunkie at 9:10 PM on May 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

I always figured it was a Super Mario Bros. coin thing.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:16 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, exactly. "Bling" is the onomatopoeia for gold coins striking one another.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:21 PM on May 14, 2009

I thought it was a comic book thing... like somethign you'd see in Archie or something.
posted by lottie at 9:22 PM on May 14, 2009

Cartoons. Big shiny jewel, glinting in light, is usually accompanied by a "bling" sound.
posted by fontophilic at 9:30 PM on May 14, 2009 [5 favorites]

I thought this question was asking, more generally, why people think sparkling has an aural association with "bling" being one example of this. The association of sparkling and sound IS older than hip-hop.

I will suggest Synesthesia is one possible answer.
posted by Green With You at 9:35 PM on May 14, 2009

That is the tv sound of smiles, too. Anything that glints. Definitely pre-dates hiphop.
posted by unknowncommand at 9:39 PM on May 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

I chalk it up to a high pitched "ding!" chiming noise giving you that same ping of mental alert and recognition that glinting sunlight in your eyes gives you.

Maybe I have low level synesthesia, but they are two very similar sensations for me, received from different sensory inputs.
posted by Mizu at 10:09 PM on May 14, 2009

The OED says that bling is "Prob. imitative (cf. e.g. PING v.2, TING v.), app. representing the visual effect of light being reflected off precious stones or metals." Where the words "ping" and "ting" go back to 1855 and 1495, respectively (also OED). So Martin Lawrence (or B.G. or whoever) may have originated the bl- sound in front of the -ing, but the overall sound-concept is much, much older.

As far as sound imitating ideas or concepts, the linguistic term you're looking for is "ideophone". Ideophones apparently exist in all known languages, so I don't think you're going to be able to locate a specific origin for them as an entity. Articles.
posted by unknowncommand at 10:16 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Definitely pre-dates hiphop.

[citation needed]

I did some date-limited searching in Google Books and Google Groups (that's the USENET archives), but I failed to turn up any examples of imitative bling before 1998. The second half of hyphenated words like fumbling, yes. A racist misspelling of bring as spoken by an Asian character, yes. But no onomatopoeia.

The existence of pseudo-onomatopoeia for things that don't make sound isn't completely novel, by the way. Japanese has a large class of words, usually reduplicated, some of which mimic literal sounds (giongo), but others of which mimic things in a way not related to sound (gitaigo).
posted by The Tensor at 10:20 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Didn't the Cracked article itself cite the earlier references?
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 10:25 PM on May 14, 2009

The Tensor, yep, I retract my first statement. The word "bling" itself doesn't necessarily pre-date hiphop, but the sound representation of "-ing" does.
posted by unknowncommand at 10:27 PM on May 14, 2009

This is total speculation here, but one thing I associate with that sound apart from the sparkle of gemstones is the sheen of light off of a sharp edge. It's a pretty common trope in medieval scenes -- the knight in shining armor unsheaths his longsword, with the metal-on-metal slide making an audible high-pitched hum as a trace of light races up the edge of the blade. This happens in real life under the right conditions -- maybe that's what inspired it?
posted by Rhaomi at 11:25 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm with Gadget. It's always been Mario gold coins for me. Bling! Bling! Bling!
posted by rokusan at 12:06 AM on May 15, 2009

I always thought the idea was popularized (if not created) by animated cartoons, where you often use exaggerated noises to emphasize the drawn action. I remember it being mentioned explicitly in a list of anime tropes and cliches (see here, entry "miitaka").
posted by PontifexPrimus at 2:39 AM on May 15, 2009

Yeah, I'm confused about this question. Not only did the Cracked article cite an earlier reference, but I think they're confused as to how it came along. I'm thinking it's the onomatopoeia for coins or the like clinking together, not "the sound of light."
posted by InsanePenguin at 4:11 AM on May 15, 2009

I recall seeing Warner Brothers cartoons where someone shows off a shiny gold tooth that goes {some variation on the -ing sound}.
posted by electroboy at 6:28 AM on May 15, 2009

I always though it came from "gleam" - a la the song Money Ain't a Thing where JD says 'gleam gleam'.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:38 AM on May 15, 2009

As many people have pointed out it is a derivation of other onomatopoeia. Rappers commonly pull from other media such as video games and cartoons.
In the mid-90s rappers like Biggie Smalls, Nas, and Jay-Z started to dress in more expensive attire. Along with this came much more expensive accesories; watches and jewelry. Of course in the never-ending search for the newer and cooler self descriptive "I'm better than you" battle raps, these types of words spring up.

As a side note, I would'nt be surprised if that word was around before 98-99. Lyrics have a way of being borrowed, especially from more innovative/less known crowd.

posted by P.o.B. at 3:52 PM on May 15, 2009

A crystal champagne flute sparkles. It also goes "ting!" if you tap it.
posted by oaf at 5:51 AM on May 16, 2009

How about those swords in Kill Bill and Crouching Tiger.. ;)
posted by 0217174 at 3:07 PM on May 20, 2009

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