[LMB] Levels of Bafflement

John Lennard john.c.lennard at gmail.com
Thu Jan 18 13:16:02 GMT 2018

Micki: One more rather silly question. The adjectival form is -ic (iambic,
trochaic, etc.). Is there a noun form of pyrrhic, or does it serve double
duty as both the noun form and the adjectival form?

John: It serves double duty.

The etymologies of the various words in Greek are entertaining. Two involve
actual anatomical feet -- trochee is from a word meaning 'running', and
pyrrhic from an armoured dance that one imagines involved two short steps.
Spondee is from a word meaning libation, and seems to have been a
characteristic element of an accompanying melody. Iambus (the older form)
is from a word meaning lampoon, because the Greeks used iambic metres for
satire. A dactyl is a finger (as in pterodactyl), and reflects the
long-short-short of finger joints, while anapaest, a backward dactyl, is
from a word meaning reversed.

Katherine: I agree with Margaret that I would put the stress on the "we":
WE have adVANCED to NEW and surPRISing LEVels of BAFFlement.  The
difference between "have" in the sentences you suggest and in Lois's
sentence is that "have" in "I have to say", "I have an appointment", etc.,
is the actual verb.  In "We have advanced" "advanced" is the verb, "have"
is just an auxiliary (making it present perfect?).  Thus you would expect
to find "have" stressed in one situation, and not in the other.

John: Point. But I have conceded that the first foot can be scanned as a
trochee, and you agree that thereafter something iambic happens (adVANCED /
to NEW). My original point was that two antecedents of Lois's phrase quoted
in McPhee lacked the idea of surprise, and that were one to analyse Lois's
line prosodically the presence of "and surprising" was a disruption between
a (predominantly) iambic beginning and a resoundingly dactylic ending
(LEVels of / BAFFlement), and your preferred scansion could be analysed as
trochee, iamb, iamb, third paeon, dactyl, dactyl --

WE have / adVANCED / to NEW / and surPRISing / LEVels of / BAFFlement

so I'm not sure we disagree, much. :-)

John Lennard, MA DPhil. (Oxon.), MA (WU)

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