Superman never made any money for saving the world from Solomon Grundy

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Good try, yellow brick road

I'm going to try to do this without sounding too cranky or curmudgeonly.

On a walk over the weekend, I chanced upon this sidewalk sign at a local fitness center:


Now, by the tagline on the readerboard, one would imagine that the ad is meant to invoke the the iconic "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" chant from The Wizard of Oz (Judy Garland version). This should be a simple matter, but in a mere seven words the sign fails.

Much of the allure of this trope lies in its rhythm, as a viewing of the linked video shows. The meter is dactyl-dactyl-molossus  - or more simply Long-short-short/Long-short-short/Long-Long-Long - or even more simply [two-syllable word] AND [two-syllable word] AND [one-syllable word] OH MY. Any effective pastiche of this expression must conform to this rhythm to be successful.

This sign has all the necessary elements: Yoga and Zumba are both two-syllable words, and Barre is a one-syllable word. But the words are configured inappropriately. Barre clearly needs to come last, just to maintain the meter; an added bonus is that Barre is a slant rhyme to bear, emphasizing the imitation. The unstressed uh sounds at the end of Yoga and Zumba are nearly assonant to an unstressed er sound, so either could come in the middle spot to evoke tiger; I would place zumba there and put yoga in first place for a visual match with the o in lion.

So, instead of

Zumba and Barre and Yoga, oh my!

we would have

Yoga and Zumba and Barre, oh my!

Demonstrably better. And I say that only to illustrate that when English teachers grade writing, it is not purely subjective; there are objective measures to which we can, and do, look.

Up, up and away.

1 comment:

Binky Bergsman said...

What? Damned my English teachers.