The funny thing about sounds and smells is the way they can cause a pleasant stir of emotion or wave of nostalgia when you experience them. It could be the sound of rain pattering on a window as you lay warm in bed or smell of freshly cut grass that takes you back to days playing in the fields. In Japan, the loud cry of the cicada moth is the sound of summer, but in the UK, the cricket’s chirp is the sound of summer evenings.
Cricket is an example of a word that developed from onomatopoeia; that is, the sound of the word cricket was formed by imitating the sound of this insect’s chirp. It derives from the 12th century French word criquet, which now denotes the locust. From Old French, then, and into Anglo-Norman, came the word criket. The Middle French verb criquer meant “to make a dry sound” and the English translation was “to crick”, which means to make a thin, sharp sound.
Some nice examples of this verb can be found in the following two excerpts: “Creckets that haunt the hearth and stocke of chimnies, where they make many holes, and lie cricking alowd in the night” (The historie of the world, commonly called the Naturall Historie of C. Plinius Secundus, 1601), and from Vladimir Nabokov in Pale fire (1962) comes the simple line “The cricket cricked”.
Of course, the cricket isn’t sitting in the undergrowth humming its tune just for our enjoyment. What it is doing is called stridulation: it rubs together specific parts of its left and right forewings in its effort to sing to the females or ward off the males. While we enjoy the calming effect of their gentle chirp, they are busy with their endeavors to procreate.