The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

May 26, 2008


Well, and here I was thinking that words such as heteroscedastic and leptokurtic were complicated enough. I have to use them on a daily basis - almost. Now it appears that phonologists like to generate polysyllabic jargon of their own.

A word with a stress on its root - acrostatic

A word with a stress on the inflectional ending in weak cases and on the derivational suffix elsewhere - hysterokinetic.

And no, I have no idea what that means.

Speaking of kinetic, I was fairly impressed by Michael Sembello who managed to incorporate the word in his electric song 'Maniac.'

There's a cold, kinetic heat, he claimed.

There are quite a few songs where the lyrics reach out of the mundanities of teenybopper love and manage to incorporate some amount of cerebrality in the form of words longer than two syllables. Men at Work were past masters at this (and, even better, they had quite a varied gestalt in their songs):

Alone between the sheets / Always brings exasperation (from 'Overkill')

I'm a helpless automaton / Make an ultimatum to you (from 'Helpless Automaton')

Give me no restrictions on what I do or say
Don't speak of tomorrow when it's still today
(from 'No Restrictions')

Who are the other intellectual warblers? There was a whole clan of them - all women - on the Lilith Fair circuit in the US a few years ago.

You walk in a room and the world stops to stare
Mesmerize all who are caught in the glare
(Sarah Mclachlan)

San Andreas Fault
Moved its fingers
Through the ground
Earth divided
Plates collided
Such an awful sound
(Natalie Merchant)

Edith Wharton's lovely figurines
Still speak to me today
From their mantlepiece in time
Where they wrestle and they play
(Suzanne Vega)

Natalie Merchant, ever self-deprecating, quipped once on radio that everybody had the impression that all she and Sarah McLachlan did when they met was trade literary allusions.

[As you can guess, I'm wa-a-ay disconnected from the pop scene of today. That's why I have to go back decades to find evidence of brains amongst the rockers. Suggestions? Tips? Advice? References? All welcome.]


Shefaly said...

Feanor: You clearly are disconnected from the world of pop music although you aren't missing much if polysyllabic words are what you are after.

I wonder often about the lack of erudition in lyrics, and I fear for what it signifies. Empty brains can hardly produce meaningful lyrics... A post titled 'Crepuscule with Nellie' is one of my more curiously popular posts, seeing as it was about lyrical erudition. :-)

Look up Divine Comedy, an Irish band. I like their lyrics. But then again, I mention Mark Knopfler in greater detail in that post.

Shefaly said...

Feanor: I have learnt more about current Indian cinema music since my friends' kids started going 'Doom Macha Le' (which is how they say Dhoom...) or 'Dil Chatha Hay' (same; yeh angrez bachche).

So does your son get to listen to all these catchy beats or does he have to contend with your choice in music? Just wondering. I even bought songs from Amazon after some kids insisted they were very cool. Hmm.

Fëanor said...

Shefaly: Mark Knopfler? That's as old as the Men at Work I mentioned! Thanks for the Irish connection. It's not that I do not enjoy the usual stuff, but that I am suitably impressed every time I encounter one of these 'cerebral' types, because they occur so rarely, knowmsayin'?

As for Angad, I'm bringing up a true ABCD (well, the Brit equivalent). He is subjected to all the Bollywood beats, although I have seen he prefers the more tuneful stuff, e.g. Jab We Met and Kal Ho Na Ho. When I put on the stuff I like, he protests quite vigorously.

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