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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Phoneme pomes

What is it about this sentence that hurts my eyes?

Well, actually, nothing, although my skin begs to differ if all is said to be well with it. I'm not sure what the precise mechanics behind my aversion to it is, but it's a mess. That's not to say it'll be a mess to all who read it, however (the fact that Mills & Boon sell 200 million novels - annually! - attests to that) but to me, yes, it offers nothing but offense.

I have no idea whether there's ever been any studies undertaken to determine whether or not devotees of Mills & Boon read their material any faster than consumers of other literature, but I suspect that perhaps they do; glossing over the nu(is)ance of words in pursuit of storyline above all else. And if this is indeed the case, then there's probably not much wrong with the opening sentence at all.

This pace>euphony is but a theory of course, and based upon nothing more than my own experience of constant toil beneath the structure of written words and the conveniently applied stereotyping of certain other genres.

Not everybody wants to spend an extra fifteen words getting to the same place either, this I understand; priorities are what they are. The distilling of language (although an unavoidable nag of the times in which we live) doesn't particularly interest me, however - despite its hefty presence within this post thus far.

Nope, what fascinates me is the scenery of language, and during the writing of this other decidedly scrappy entry, I stumbled in research upon an interesting piece by Karen M Miner, which is a nicely orchestrated example of how phonemes work in the fields of poetry and prose.

Having only learnt about phonaesthetics last weekend, a lot of it immediately began to make sense. For example, during the second editing phase of Catharsis, much use was made of my thesaurus in roam of suitable words with which to replace the jagged ones - in fact, by the time I'd finished, my second (and far more robust) thesaurus was also well-thumbed. The words I eventually chose to include as substitutes were not always known to me either, but employed regardless, due simply to their euphonic properties. In fact, it's not unusual for my wife to quiz me on the clarification of a word during the editing process and for me not to know its meaning, for the definition (despite its usage being meticulously researched once decided upon and hopefully therefore correct) is secondary to its voice.

Equally, one could employ this same technique and have cacophony the desired result (on occasion I purposely burdened ugly characters with this), and whilst listening to Hairspray Queen last week I found myself hoping that Cobain's often nonsensical lyrics might actually have been a conscious attempt to cause the listener further unease, deliberately abrasive words chosen regardless of context, their function simply that of a jab.

Whether or not this was actually the case, of course, I have no idea ... but I embrace the thought.