Jewish World Review Oct. 24, 2002 / 18 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls! Noteworthy music lovers of all ages! Now that you've paid the piper, I'm going to orchestrate an overture that will be music to your ears. As your keynote ringmaster, I hope to strike the right key and the right note in your love of the English language. I also strive to strike a responsive chord. I don't want to chime in on your enjoyment and harp on the fact that I'm feeling fit as a fiddle, without playing second fiddle to anyone. I don't want to blow my own horn, but I do know my brass from my oboe. We at the Word Circus would never play it by ear or give you a song and dance with a second-string performance. I'm not going to soft-pedal any praise for our lyrical, harmonious English language. Rather, I'm going to pull out all the stops and drum up support for our melodic, mellifluous words. And that's not just whistling Dixie.
So let's hop on the bandwagon and face the music!
Now the tent grows dark, and the crowd grows hush.
Our jaws a-droop and our eyes a-light
Then the wha-wha-wha of the slide trombone,
Ah, the rattle and rhyme of the music's timeLadies and gentlemen! As I crack my whip, the canvas castle fills with life. Onto the sawdust stage high steps our spectacular English language, the most tintinnabulating of the world's tongues.
Writer Michael Arlen once said, "English is the great Wurlitzer of language, the most perfect all-purpose instrument ever invented." With the world's most gargantuan vocabulary (more than three times as many words as German, in second place, more than four times as many as Russian, in third place, and more than six times as many as French, in fourth), English sings a different tune because it is the most magical, musical language in the world.
Let's start with letter-perfect words. Grammagrams are RT words that, when they are pronounced, consist entirely of letter sounds. Words such as emcee, deejay,and veejay that are actually formed from letter sounds are initialisms, not grammagrams. Listen now to the FX of the most popular two-syllable grammagrammatical attractions:
Next, a surprising array of three-syllable grammagrams:
Now four syllables:
Letter artists have come up with a number of variations beyond the grammagrammatical sounding out of individual words. Lewis Carroll, author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and other fantasies, played upon the sounds of letters in composing a letter to Annie Rodgers:
My dear Annie,
A picture, which I hope willA classic dialogue is this string of letters that don't exactly match but that approximate words. The scene is a restaurant, and the characters are a breakfast diner and a server:
Diner (to server): F U N E X?Now hear the music of some letter-perfect verse. Keep in mind that the same letter twice in a row sounds like a plural. For example, II means "eyes."
YURYY (Why you are wise)
U XEd NE (You exceed any)
Here's an almost century-old example of letter play, by H.C. Dodge, that appeared in the July 1903 Woman's Home Companion. ICQ out so that I can CU have fun translating the sound FX of this poem:
The farmer leads no EZ life.
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10/17/02: Is life a movie? We all speak their lines