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This is a well worn phrase I'm trying to avoid in my writing. I'm looking for another word to replace 'hum', which I take to mean the background noise resulting from people talking. I came up with 'murmur', but ideally, I'd like a word that suggests a deep pitch. You see, I'm writing about a group of men, and in my head, I compare the sound of their voices to sounds stones would make as they bounce off each other while being carried along by a river. 'Trundle'? I thought 'gravel', but then, I plan to use that word a short distance away, and I hate clumsy repeats.

Any suggestions?

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  • How about a grumble ? But the again, it can also mean a complaint. So it would depend on what they are talking about.
    – TsSkTo
    Commented Sep 29, 2013 at 14:16
  • Does it have to be a single word? I find your description quite a nice mental image, one that i haven't heared before.
    – ThatOneGuy
    Commented Sep 29, 2013 at 21:11

6 Answers 6

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“A rumble of men's voices” might be an appropriate phrase, using rumble's sense “A low, heavy, continuous sound, such as that of thunder or a hungry stomach”.

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  • Very good! This is the word I ended up using. It was the perfect fit, but I enjoyed the other suggestions that turned up. Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 21:23
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OP could go with murmur, but I and most other Anglophones tend to use buzz...

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On the other hand, since OP wants a word evocative of running water, it's worth noting...

babbling brook 44,500 instances in Google Books
babble of conversation 24,900 instances

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Burble

To make the quiet sound of water moving over rocks

also purl

To flow or ripple with a murmuring sound.

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You could describe the noise as lithophonic drone or hum or noise.

A lithophone is a musical instrument consisting of a rock or pieces of rock which are struck to produce musical notes.

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Amid the chatter, chitchat, jabbering, yammering, clacking, yakking, ...

Non-onomatopoeic 'group of men': shooting the breeze, chewing the fat

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I have always described it as a "din". The room was filled with a din of conversation. If you're at a busy bar with friends, you must compete with the din in the room in order to hold a conversation. In your case I might say something like, "The room was filled with the baritone din of conversation."

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