Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Five Feet of Poetry, Please

Poetry is measured in feet. There are different kinds of feet. Shakespeare wrote in iambs, a foot with one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable, like the word behave.  For example:

Was ever woman in this humour wooed?

You could break this line into 5 feet, where each foot has the pattern unstressed(x) stressed(/).

Was EV | er WO | man IN | this HU | mour WOOED?

So it's called iambic pentameter ... it's made up of iambs, and there are 5 of them in a line. It's said that iambic pentameter is a natural rhythm for English speakers.

We invent a lot of new language these days ... words, names, abbreviations, chat-speak, etc. For a long time, three-letter acronyms (TLAs) were popular ... FBI, CIA, INS, ATF, etc. (Hmmm. Maybe they're only popular for government agencies.) Each of these is pronounced like: xx/ ... two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed. That, in poetry, is called an anapest. We still use TLAs like gtg and brb.

But two letter acronyms are gaining in popularity. Many people use FB (like the full name, Facebook, a trochee (/x)) and G+ (an iamb, (x/), unlike its full name, the anapest (xx/) Google+).

Of course four letter acronyms force us to use at least two metrical feet, more if one of the letters is a 'w' (/xx, a dactyl). That's bad news for TV and radio stations east of the Rockies, where the call letters all begin with 'W'. This is why the ubiquitous "www" prefix either gets shortened to "dub dub dub" or omitted altogether when pronouncing the domain name. (Personally, I'd rather hear it abbreviated as "wah wah wah.")

As I mentioned earlier, we're making up monikers and abbreviations to try to find available domain names that will be memorable. Be sure to try saying the name out loud a few times to confirm that it's reasonable to pronounce. The "dot com" part itself is an iamb, so it may affect any name it gets attached to. TechCurmudgeon.com  becomes /x/xx/ ... two dactyls followed by an iamb.

If you want word-of-mouth traffic, it has to be pronounceable.

4 comments:

jwriddle said...

Can you break out what the following would be considered in poetry terms (including their two-letter acronyms)?

Microsoft / microsoft.com (acronym = "ms")

vs.

Twitter / twitter.com (acronnym = "tw") and Quora / quora.com (acronum = qu)

vs.

Unique ones like...

LinkedIn / linkedin.com (acronym = "in")

jwriddle said...

Also - I'd be interested in your thoughts on what's to happen when the market on Web 2.0 two-letter acronyms and domain names peaks out -- what's next?

Peter Davis said...

Interesting thoughts. I would say "Microsoft" is "/xx", a dactyl. So microsoft.com would be a dactyl followed by an iamb. The abbreviation "ms" is a spondee. I suspect most two-letter acronyms are spondaic, though longer ones can certainly have other meters.

I haven't heard a lot of people say "Quora," but "Twitter" is certainly a trochee, at least in my neck of the woods.

Interestingly, I usually hear "LinkedIn" as a spondee, or perhaps an iamb. I don't think a trochee works too well for that.

I know there's been a push to legitimize .co as an alternative to .com, but I'm not sure that will ever catch on. Would you want .co if you didn't also own the .com? But more top-level domains will certainly come. Look at the history of phone numbers.

jwriddle said...

Quora was created after the word "Quorum", I think. I may be wrong. It's a Q&A site of sorts, so "Questions" could be another relative connection.

I'm not quite sure about going out of my way or to be concerned with losing out to having the ".co" in alignment with my already registered ".com".

I think OpenID, and the use of Trusted Authentication will really make domain names irrelevant for self branding or smaller organizations at some point. More people will be focused on centralizing content and using social media tools to direct traffic to their websites via Facebook, Google+, etc.

I don't own a large company or sell a product, but I am a self-marketed brand and I maintain/sculpt it relative to the type of service I provide in my line of work. I think it's relative to a number of factors (such as size, product, exposure, market, public or private, etc) as to whether continued monopolization of specific domain names is important to an organization.