magically murky moments (1)
Let me first express my gratitude to nuruL H: the sheer zest of her buoyantly alliterative posts & titles is justification enough for alliteration, this lovely linguistic mannerism (in which I too like to indulge).
In many contexts, however, alliteration has a bad reputation (just as rhyme has): it is considered as frivolous & superfluous. A silly ornament, distracting from the message.
I’m of course quite used to accept humbly society’s strictures on the aesthetic (2) , but as far as language is concerned, I do beg to differ, & to grumble: there’s more to alliteration than a silly play!
Looking for a smack of serious science to back this up, I found a reference to the
memory-enhancing benefits of alliteration. Which may suggest that our brain not only stores words as symbols or signs, but also according to their sound. (3)
But of course I would prefer alliteration to be just a bit more than a cerebral storage & retrieval trick, I would want it to have meaning!
Daniel Tammet (a high-functioning autistical savant, with extraordinary fluency in both numbers and language) claims just that: words are no mere arbitrary conventions to denote reality. Words, or more precisely, how words sound, have intrinsic connotations .
It is no meaningless coincidence that following words start with “b”: ball bean bubble balloon.
But I must admit, my objective judgment in these matters is totally compromised by my own love of language which is so intimately bound up with my longing for meaning. So of course I would project magical meaning in alliteration.
Anyway, it gives me a good excuse to quote (again) Adam Kirsch, from his wonderfully insightful article about Walter Benjamin’s poetic longing for meaning.
“Of course, secular reason holds that human languages are purely conventional, but Benjamin would not countenance the idea that words are arbitrary. […] The vision of language that Benjamin advances here is moving precisely because it is beyond logical proof, and because it expresses so eloquently his longing for meaning in a world that usually presents itself as mere chaos. [..]
“Quod in imaginibus, est in lingua” . How crucial the notion was to Benjamin’s thought […] he felt that names and things belonged together, that a rhyme had revealed a reality."
(1) In fact, this post was just going to display the two photos. Evoking some dear moments, filled with ambiguous light: one taken once upon a spring evening, lost in thoughts on a train and another, coming home from work late, rejoicing in the magical mix of artificial and natural luminosity ( “l’heure entre chien et loup”). But then the ‘murky moments' title popped up and then there was nuruL’s ‘may messages’ post. Too many signs to ignore – hence the mutation into a ponderous post about alliteration.
(2) I always have to run a thorough alliteration-purging check on memos I produce in a work context, since the merest hint of playfulness would of course ruin the memo’s credibility.
(3) It never ceases to amaze (& depress) me how different the conventions of “efficiently communicating a message” in a business context are from the conventions of “conveying meaning and insight” in the artistic & philosophical realm.
(4) Personally, I’m significantly more inclined to exuberant alliteration in English than in my mother tongue. Perhaps because I’ve acquired so much of my English by looking up words in an alphabetically organized dictionary? And that would be why my brain has stored the word “fragment” quite close to the word “frivolous”?