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What is the reasoning behind having the roadrunner say "beep beep" constantly? Do real roadrunner birds make a similar sound?

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  • 4
    Here's a bit of history. May 17 at 14:12
  • 34
    He doesn't he says: "Meep meep".
    – Möoz
    May 18 at 1:41
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As explained on Wikipedia:

Chuck Jones, the creator of the Road Runner, has stated that this sound, the only way the Road Runner can harm the Coyote, was inspired by hearing a Doppler-like effect as background artist Paul Julian imitated a car horn when he could not see where he was going.

The source for this claim is a DVD commentary, in which Michael Barrier says:

Actually the title is somewhat of a misnomer; the actual 'beep beep' sound you just heard the Road Runner make was made by a background painter named Paul Julian, who used to make it in the hallways at Warner Brothers when he was carrying a large painting along, so people would get out of his way. Chuck Jones heard him make that - or Treg Brown I guess, actually, the sound effects wizard at Warner Brothers - heard him make that noise and suggested that they record that for the Road Runner, and it's been the standard Road Runner noise ever since.

Note that the sound is also spelled "meep, meep", "hmeep hmeep" or "mweep, mweep".

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    +1 for "meep meep". :)
    – Graham
    May 17 at 14:14
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    Also, it's a cost savings reason - per the Simpsons, they also only had to pay the voice actor once, for a single "beep". :P
    – BruceWayne
    May 17 at 14:35
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    I always thought it was pretty obviously supposed to be like an old fashioned car or bicycle horn. Road Runner is essentially saying "Get out of the way!"
    – Barmar
    May 17 at 14:41
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    The story makes sense. For a few years I worked in a large engineering facility in a cube next to a main thoroughfare where mail carts would daily go by beeping a repeating tone to warn pedestrians from walking out in front of them. After a while, I got to where I could mimic the sound, and I will now (semi-reflexively) make it myself if I have to cart something large around.
    – T.E.D.
    May 17 at 15:11
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    @T.E.D. FYI, the automatic beeps for trucks in reverse is a relatively recent addition. I have a friend who lost his father in the late 70's when he was run over by a backing up garbage truck (before the warnings). Of course, manual horns on cars and other motor vehicles is over a century old.
    – Barmar
    May 18 at 14:58
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Real roadrunners do not go 'beep beep', or anything much like it.

Male Greater Roadrunners make a distinct co-coo-coo-coo-coooooo in a series of 3–8 downward slurring notes.

Both male and female also make a short, sharp barking call that sounds like a yipping coyote.

Both chicks and adults snap the mandibles together to make a sound like castanets. A sharp whine accompanies the clacking, with the female making a higher-pitched, more rapid sound.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Greater_Roadrunner/sounds

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    Wait, wait - roadrunners make a call that sounds like a coyote, specifically? Did the writers know that before they decided to pair these two particular animals together? (Of course Wile E. Coyote never really makes much of any sound except for that one episode where he talks, so the cartoon isn't exactly accurate on that front either.) May 17 at 14:31
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    @DarrelHoffman Now you've got me thinking that someone needs to do an Attenborough-style documentary on the animals in cartoons.
    – Barmar
    May 17 at 14:36
  • @DarrelHoffman Quick! Someone call Sir David! May 18 at 19:47
  • 5
    As an Australian, I only learnt in adulthood that roadrunners are actual birds. I had always assumed it was a completely fictitious animal invented for the show. May 18 at 21:38
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    It also turns out that when you run off a cliff, you don't actually hover in the air until you realize there is no ground beneath you.
    – JimmyJames
    May 19 at 15:34

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