Words & Stuff

o: Words of Just One Beat (Reader Comments)

(5 May 1997)

Em Jay Dee sent me a note on "Short words":

As I came home, I tried to say things with just short words. But soon I saw that the short words came out of me with no need for help; the sound was quite good, since I first learned to talk with just short words, and it was not hard at all to leave out the long ones. Most of the way I speak all the time is in words of just one beat.

I think you should have run this first, and then `the big red hen.' `The big red hen' spilled your whole trick at once, since `big red hen' is just like `one part words', but more so.

(He went on to note that lots of short blunt words and sets of words that can be used to swear or say mean things are just one beat long.)

To his main point, I say: it's true that it's not all that hard to talk in words of one beat if you take care. But most folks do use words with two or more beats all the time. And though Em Jay Dee says I'm wrong, I think most kids' first words are not just one beat. Then too, there are lots of oft used two-or-more-beat words that you can skip (ahem) only via awkward circumlocutions.

(For ease of writing, this paragraph uses multi-beat words.) As for three-letter words, I think it's a related topic but not an extension of the one at hand. I wouldn't be capable of writing a column in three-letter words, especially not a column that talked about writing in three-letter words; three-letter words are a fun area to play in, but can't be used for real communication. And as I alluded to in the one-beat column, not all three-letter words are one-syllable words; I made a point of that because in the first draft of the column I almost let the word "any" slip by.

Ranjit (oops, two beats, damn) wrote re "two glyphs and two beats":

I don't know if you want to keep out words which are names, but it seems to me that one of the moons of the fifth rock (or ball of gas) from the sun has a name which fits the bill. Named for a cow girl, I think.

I like that one a lot. I also much like this one from Melissa (ack, three beats!) B.:

For a word with two glyphs that has more than one beat, try the word "aa," which is a type of the quite hot rock which flows from tall hills/mounts. It's the rock which is very sharp and has many rough points, and not the rock that is [way] smooth, oft like rope, which is known as "pahoihoi."

Lastly, nj emailed me-ward message headed "letter about recent column":

nj enjoyed Hartman's recent column written using only single-beated language. nj, tyro verbal wrangler, attempts writing using only dual-beated language; sadly, although nj barely maintains proper grammar, stilted language becomes nj's downfall. Lacking dual-beated pronouns, "nj" quickly becomes tiresome. Awful, tortured writing results.

(Nota bene: "dual-beated" requires hyphen, therefore single tetra-beated unit? Above attempt futile!)

Pentasyllabic vocabulary, superlogophile?

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Jed Hartman <logophilia@kith.org>