Prosody and the Human Condition

Prosody rhymes open some obscure doors, y’say? Those memorable games that kids like to play.

1,2,3, four, who will open up the door?
5, 6, 7, eight, the one who opens up the gate.

Prosody isn’t a fancy pants art. It was born in the playground, ’round campfires, or caves in the dark. There’s a reason. Words alike are easier to remember, and simple chants help children learn how to process and recall language. Fun, bee-boppy verse gets us over a big speech impediment—birth. Rhymes and twisters get the mouth moving and help sort out the wiring to the brain. I gleaned that attitude reading Lincoln Kinnear Barnett in his work, Treasure of Our Tongue, New American Library, 1966? The book is worth the read if you want a purist’s view on linguistic development. For this word puppy, prosody puts a light, rhythmic spin on messages—and deeper subjects.

Consider events when prosody comes into fashion. What’s the human condition when prosody runs back around the mulberry bush? Nursery rhymes are fun when we’re young and we need to categorize a big, scary world. The Dark Ages fostered a lot of these nursery rhymes. Life was a little bleak and we needed some kidding around. Also, a smart bard could disguise a message, easily passed along without much variation in content. Attend an afternoon burning, then out pops a jingle to immortalize the event, and warn others. There’s a little strife going on in our era right now, so you might be tuning in a few chants. Prosody again.

Waaay back, as life grew better, with less squalor and more time to cultivate, Renaissance ideas and rediscovery of classical art started to percolate. Everything gets frilly and complex again. Think glam rock ballad.

Prosody, and its mischievous little sister poesy, will tend gardens in wartime, too. Throughout stress and strife, a chary proletariat are fed simple propaganda messages with quick memorability and patriotic quips. Dr. Seuss was studious in propaganda and built a legacy on prosody. Imagine that, cat hat jack no hack flipped flack for the axis attack.

The upright hominid with an string plucking fingers varies expression depending on variables in nature and society. You can see what’s going on by how artists phrase their messages. Consider why you’re compelled to write in a certain manner. Chances are you’ve been influenced by your environment, and you’re adjusting according to what’s reaching the reader. There’s ten zillion tiny timpani symphonies of 140 character thumb beat tweets touring earth each day. Crazy era.

Anthems, ballads, baroque—they all have their occasion in music, just as eras shape meter and technique in poetry. Once aware, a writer can adjust style depending on the voice they wish to express, composing a message to suit the audience and environment. Prosody is also a fun diversion by its design, great for weaving secrets. A fun trick, when you’re about to write a word, don’t—and use another in it’s trace. Bury a place for it later. You can also force words into deeper layers. Check out the very first sentence up top. There’s a code in the first letters. Consider the street and playground messaging of youth and spin. Have fun. ~ gaboo

More mature? Read some heady prosody at


2 Responses to “Prosody and the Human Condition”
  1. Amanda S says:

    You really are a clever ball Gaboo!

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