All About Alliteration: Does It Almost Always Annoy?

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.

AA is for 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:

Nursery Rhymes

mother goose
en.wikimedia.org

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.

Cartoon Characters

mmddWho could forget these adorable cartoon characters: Daffy Duck, Donald and Daisy Duck, Mickey  and Minnie Mouse, Bugs Bunny, and P-P-P-Porky Pig?

Tonque Twisters

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?”

Poems

It’s also popular among poets like Poe (sorry, can’t help myself) as in this example of The Raven:

the raven
en.wikimedia.org

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.”

Advertising Jingles

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!

Cliches

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

Literature

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.”

Mike Rowe Ready_for_a_Dirty_Job
wikimedia commons

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:

Mike Rowe Alliteration

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!

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31 thoughts on “All About Alliteration: Does It Almost Always Annoy?”

  1. Love alliteration, but I grew up on comic books. For example: Scott Summers, Peter Parker, Reed Richards, Susan Storm, Fin Fang Foom, Pepper Potts, Bruce Banner, Otto Octavius, Matt Murdoch, Warren Worthington, Green Goblin, Wonder Woman, Blue Beetle, and Silver Surfer. 😛

  2. JK Rowling is the queen of character names, isn’t she? I laugh at alliterative names in comic books (Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Clark Kent, Lois Lane…), but the names in Harry Potter just seem brilliant, alliteration or no.

    1. I agree. JKR is brilliant. HP and the Deathly Hallows (1&2) was on tv last night and my son and I had to watch even though we own the dvds and have watched them about a million times 🙂

  3. Oh I love a good alliteration, the more ‘pedantic’ the better (that quote from Mike Rowe is just amazing). I had to look up sesquipedalian though, a new word added to my vocab!

    1. The sesquipedalian sentence is one I made up. Click the link to read how Mike Rowe “was powerless to prevent a preponderance of P’s from piling up on the page.” It’s really worth the read! 😉

      1. Oh, haha, I’m such a retard with facebook, I clicked on the link, saw a photo and thought – oh that didn’t work. I just went back and oh my god, that letter is amazing! I am a new fan of his purely for that!!
        (note to self, must get to grips with facebook)

  4. Laugh out loud love it! I never really thought before about all those Harry Potter names. And I just realized the main character of the book I’m getting ready to publish is named Tara Triannon. Funny.

  5. I do enjoy a good alliteration – I use them often, actually. 🙂 Great post!
    Oh, and my favourite tongue twister is “Bright blue braces.” Try saying it three times, fast.

  6. I don’t enjoy extreme alliteration used for its own sake or to be funny, but I don’t have any problem with, say, characters with alliterative names. (As for the alliterative names in the Harry Potter novels, I like them better than the pun names.)

  7. Interesting post. I’ll admit I never really took the time to think about alliteration on a level of do I “like” it. It just was. I have to say, one I read some of your examples – especially Mike’s “P” piece, I think it can be overdone…. It does serve it’s purpose though – especially in catchy jingles – or blog titles.

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