This is my first post for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. For those who don’t know, it spans the month of April, working through the alphabet, in order. So today’s post is all about alliteration.
I like a little alliteration. Try saying that five times (okay, that tongue twister was annoying).
Alliteration is fun to read in small doses, and sometimes even heaping ones (see the link to Mike Rowe’s letter at the end of this post). I love the way the words roll of my tongue, like licking a luscious lollipop. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
Alliteration is the repetition of the same sounds at the beginning of words strung together in a phrase or sentence.
You know what I’m talking about. You probably first experienced it as a child, before you entered school. It’s commonly used in nursery rhymes and as a tool for helping children learn to read:
Betty Botter by Mother Goose
Betty Botter bought some butter,
but, she said, the butter’s bitter;
if I put it in my batter
it will make my batter bitter,
but a bit of better butter
will make my batter better.
So she bought a bit of butter
better than her bitter butter,
and she put it in her batter
and the batter was not bitter.
So ’twas better Betty Botter
bought a bit of better butter.
What about those tongue twisters we used to tease and taunt each other with as youngsters? Does “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” sound familiar? How about, “Sally sells seashells by the seashore?”
It’s also popular among poets like Poe (sorry, can’t help myself) as in this example of The Raven:
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more.”
It’s often used in advertising jingles. Does this one sound familiar? Can you name the company? Can you think of any others?
Five. Five dollar. Five dollar Foot-long!
How about these popular cliches? Can you think of any others?
- belle of the ball
- dead as a doornail
- cream of the crop
- dime a dozen
- jump for joy
- right as rain
J.K. Rowling deployed it in the Harry Potter series, and in many of the names of the characters. I didn’t realize just how many until I started to list them. Wow, there are more than a few and I’m sure I’ve missed some. Here goes:
- Severus Snape
- Dudley Dursley
- Minerva McGonagall
- Quirinus Quirrell
- Luna Lovegood
- Godric Gryffindor
- Helga Hufflepuff
- Peter Pettigrew (I love saying this one in a British voice. I know, I’m strange.)
- Filius Flitwick
- Bathilda Bagshot
- Cho Chang
- Colin Creevey
- Dedalus Diggle
- Padma and Parvati Patil
- Rowena Ravenclaw
- Salazar Slytherin
Whew! Did I miss any?
I also came across an example of alliteration in a book I read recently, The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler:
“Fortune, we are told, is a blind and fickle foster-mother, who showers her gifts at random upon her nurslings.”
This one really stood out because I almost transposed the compound word with an expletive. I had to stop and re-read it. Surely Samuel Butler didn’t write m—–f—–?
I used it in the first book I wrote. I referred to a side character that wasn’t going to get much attention in the book. I wanted the reader to note that she was a bona-fide “biatch.” So I had a character disdainfully refer to her as a “blonde-headed blue-blood.”
I also stumbled across a post about alliteration on Mike Rowe’s Facebook page I wanted to share with you. He discusses an old professor who expressed her aversion for alliteration by telling him “alliteration almost always annoys.” Ironically, her name was Paula Pumphrey (Heh. Heh.). He also discusses a letter he wrote and…well, you really need to read it for yourself. It’s hilarious. The sagacious celebrity’s superbly scripted soliloquy, sodden with sesquipedalian sentiments was super sexy (I adore Mike Rowe).
Here’s the link:
How do you feel about alliteration? I sense there’s a “love it” or “hate it” sentiment out there, but I’d love to hear your thoughts!