How is the Martian battle cry in Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds spelt? It is one of the most recognisable sounds in pop but Wayne himself never has to verbalise (unless earlier editions than mine come with a libretto!). Orbital sampled the piercing war-shriek on their debut album, titling the track “Oolaa”. But ‘oolaa’ fails to satisfy as a spelling, for three reasons:

i. The double-o and double-a might suggest that the two vowel-sounds which make up the cry (NB it is not confirmed that Martians have ‘vowels’ so I am using the Earth equiv.) are of similar length: this is untrue, as the cry is made up of a forceful and triumphant ‘oo’ and then a tailing-off ‘laaaaa’ as the Martian seeks its next kill.

ii. The break between syllables is dramatic, more dramatic than found in most Earth words – while I would agree w/ the brothers Hartnoll that the two syllables are not separate words I think some kind of punctuation, a hyphen maybe, to separate them would be appropriate.

iii. Personally, I’m not convinced by the ‘oo’ spelling. The cry seems more alien, and to come from further back in the (human) mouth, than the mundane ‘oo’ of boot or hoot. It seems closer to a ‘u’ sound – maybe the spelling should involve a ‘uu’, or even better, a ‘uu’ with some kind of accent on it! If anyone knows the character number for u-umlaut we can take these speculations to their next level.