Alliteration: Alluring, annoying, or alright? This is a question I pose to all of you readers, as well as to myself. Do let me know if you have any pet peeves about alliterations, or any interesting insights? Or maybe some witty wisdom to share? I shall share my own observations a little later in this post; and look forward to hear your (maybe alliterative or other device-ful) comments!
As I planned out this post, I noticed (and loved) how so many poetic terms that start with ‘a’ seem to deal with repetition; for example, alliteration, assonance, and anaphora. And then there are anadiplosis, antanaclasis, and antistasis!! Sorry if they all happen to also be, well, assonating! Then there is also antimetabole, a little different,
If you are wondering about all these others, I briefly touch upon them later in the post.
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So Let Us First Dive Right Into the Question Of the Day
Alliteration: Alluring, Annoying Or Alright?
What is Alliteration?
According to the Merriam Webster definition, it is the repetition of usually initial consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words or syllables. It is also referred to head rhyme or initial rhyme.
It is derived from the Latin ad “to” (see ad-) + littera (also litera) “letter, script”
Now that we have got that out of the way, let us look at alliteration more deeply.
From Favorite Familiars To Torturous Tongue Twisters
Familiar Rhymes and Tongue Twisters
(well, it should have been from tongue twisters since I use that first; but then, it beats the purpose, right?!)
It starts early; with repetition in rhymes. Children love learning when words vie with each other for attention in these fun nursery rhymes. I am sure you have some favorite familiar ones from your childhood. And tongue twisters are always fun favorites. Like this obvious one below
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
The earliest version of this tongue twister was published in Peter Piper’s Practical Principles of Plain and Perfect Pronunciation by John Harris (1756–1846) in London in 1813, which includes a one name tongue-twister for each letter of the alphabet in the same style [Wikipedia]. And I have linked the Gutenberg edition of that fun read for you!
Poets use alliteration so very effectively for various reasons, some of which are that it:
- draws focus on specific words and the relationship between them
- creates an atmosphere, an ambience in which the reader feels the poem
- emphasizes the mood – be it happy, hopeful, cheery, chilling, sober, sweet, so many more
- creates rhythm and of course rhyme!
Some super cool examples that stood out for me:
From The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: the repetitive phrase ‘He holds him’
Poe, of course, uses alliteration so very wonderfully in The Raven in these lines
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
and in these ones: Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
Shel Silverstein’s poems were the first pick for my kids when they had to recite poems at school. And they are rich with alliteration too.. One particular poem I chose to pick for you today is titled Picture Puzzle Piece.
It goes like this..
One picture puzzle piece
Lyin’ on the sidewalk,
One picture puzzle piece
Soakin’ in the rain.
It might be a button of blue……
(be)Loved Literature or Maybe Cool Comics
And then there is alliteration in literature; not just for the little ones, but even in those for adults.
Let us start with book titles. We have so many that stay in our memories and minds; did you pause to think that their titles help just a bit too? Don’t get me wrong! I am a READER so all books are ‘my precious’ to me. But titles do help when alliteration plays its part in making it memorable.
Here are just a few:
- Pride and Prejudice
- Sense and Sensibility
- The Great Gatsby
- The Wind in the Willows
- Black Beauty
- Of Mice and Men
- The Prince and the Pauper
Goodreads has a big list of alliterative titles here. Do let me know if you have any that come to mind as soon as you read these..
And then there are character names. One very obvious example is the many characters in the Harry Potter series. So many other famous character names are alliterative as well. And we cannot forget the comics (from beloved Disney comics to those superheroes). Again, alliteration makes characters catchy (catch on?)
Listing a few once again for you:
- Bilbo Baggins
- Donald and Daisy Duck
- Mickey and Minnie Mouse
- Bugs Bunny
- Olive Oyl
- Betty Boop
- Severus Snape
- Peter Pettigrew
- Luna Lovegood
- Cho Chang
- Clark Kent
- Lois Lane
- Peter Parker
- and so many more….
Again, any of your favorites that I missed out? I randomly picked a few that I recalled from my reads. Some of these character names can easily find themselves in the next list too, and I added a few there as I watched the movie or TV series before reading the books/comics they were based on.
Movie Magic, Tempting TV, Sweet Sounds, and Big Brands
The Silver Screen & the Small Screen
Movies are magical, and titles can tempt and target audiences when created catch-ily! For example, we have
- Freaky Friday (which is a family favorite by the way; and is it freaky that two of the actors have alliterative names too; Lindsay Lohan and Chad Michael Murray?)
- Wonder Woman
- What Women Want
- Mamma Mia! (another fam fav)
- Sleepless in Seattle
- Vegas Vacation (we do love Chevy Chase)
- or Bobby Boucher in The Water Boy
And then on the small screen (not really small screen now though for many), we have shows like
- Wanda Vision (how many of you have binge watched it, or eagerly pounced on an episode the moment it aired?)
- Jessica Jones
- Daredevil (Matthew Murdock)
I was wowed by “What a Wonderful World” when I first heard it. And all that alliteration was unintentional (really!). When you listen to Joni Mitchell sing “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” the alliteration helps convey the emotions even more strongly.
Again, there are so many more songs to include here (and if I start including those I listen to in Indian languages like Hindi, Tamil, and Kannada, then tons more!). But I would love to hear some of your favorites as well.
To end with, there are the big brands (and even littler ones) that use this device to advantage. To be easy to remember, to be fun to say the names, and well, just because….
For example, we have Coca-Cola and Krispy Kreme (yum!), Dunkin’ Donuts and Kit Kat, Lululemon and Bed, Bath & Beyond, and even Google and Twitter!!
So What is the Answer?
As for me, I do love alliteration (and you might see it often on my blog – in the titles and in the posts themselves). I admit I might overdo it a few times simply because I cannot resist but overall, I do believe if done well, and done right (the right amount and at the right instances), alliteration is always awesome and attention-grabbing.
Now, it is your turn. After all that you have read here, and from what you already know and feel about this device, what do you think? Alliteration: Alluring, Annoying, or Alright?
Fun Alliteration Exercises For One And All
- Read tongue twisters out loud; maybe try to do it as a group. I found a few at the Parade magazine website.
- After reading a few, try writing your own tongue twisters!
- Keep a keen eye out for alliterative occurrences in your reading. Magazine covers and news headlines are full of them; and you will be surprised at how often it is used once you start looking.
- Caption an interesting photo you took or you saw with an alliterative phrase.
If you need some creative help, then here is one – in the form of a laundry list of alliterative words.
All-the-other A Devices I Alluded To Earlier
- Assonance is the repetition of the same or similar vowel sounds within closely placed words, phrases, or syllables. One example that I do love is from My Fair Lady – “The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain.”
- Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses, most often used to lend emphasis. You see it used in so many ways. ‘Stay home, stay healthy’ or similar in this past year; ‘So many books, so little time’ so often by book lovers. Dickens starts his Tale of Two Cities with anaphora. And when Santa Claus comes to town, anaphora helps there as well!
- Anadiplosis (“a doubling, folding up”) is the repetition of the last word of a preceding clause. The word is used at the end of a sentence and then used again at the beginning of the next sentence. Like when Yoda states in The Phantom Menace “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
- Antanaclasis is the literary device in which a single word or phrase is repeated, but in two different senses. Great for puns, and of course for emphasis too! I love this example from Benjamin Franklin where he says, “Your argument is sound, nothing but sound.”
- Antistasis seems to be synonymous to antanaclasis; it derives from Greek meaning “to stand against” or “to resist,” and is the duplication of a word most often in an opposite or contrary sense.
- Antimetabole comes from a Greek phrase which means “turning about,” and involves repeating a phrase in reverse order. Like, “Eat to live, not live to eat.” or John F Kennedy’s famous, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
I will try to feature a book around poetry/poems/verse for each alphabet this month.
Here is the one for the letter A. TBH, I have not read this one fully yet, just scratched the surface. Then again, it is huge!! So this is going to be one of those for dipping in now and again; and thankfully, one of those that permits it.
Title: African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song
Editor: Kevin Young
Length: 1170 pages (Yes, that many!)
Genre: Poetry Anthologies
Publisher: Library of America (October 20th 2020)
Source: Digital Review Copy from NetGalley
Description: Across a turbulent history, from such vital centers as Harlem, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and the Bay Area, Black poets created a rich and multifaceted tradition that has been both a reckoning with American realities and an imaginative response to them. Capturing the power and beauty of this diverse tradition in a single indispensable volume, African American Poetry reveals as never before its centrality and its challenge to American poetry and culture.
My Initial Thoughts
As I just skimmed through it, my first reaction was Wow! And then, as I read the introduction (which you must in this book without fail), I thought, “This is a work of love!” Of love of poetry, of culture, of people, of pride in who we are, of history, and of
Considering the magnitude of care and effort that this book has definitely taken, I will be investing some amount of the same care and effort as I read it. Thankfully, I could profess to be not completely ignorant as I turned the pages of this book; as previous reads had introduced me to at least some of the names and a few of the poems included here. But as I mention, it is just a few and I am so glad to be able to learn about more poets and their wonderful poems through this epic anthology.
The book is divided into eight sections arranged chronologically from 1770 all the way to 2020. Within each section, the poets are arranged alphabetically (except for the first section which covers the longest period of time – from 1770 to 1899). And with almost 250 poets included, along with so many of each of their poems, I cannot begin to state just a few of them, even with, ‘as an example.’ So I will let the book speak for itself, which it does – brilliantly, magnificently, wow-ly!
The backmatter does total justice to this book; there are brief biographical notes of the included poets, as well as further notes on the poems themselves which add so much to the reading of the book.
I think the best way to read this book (which I will be doing for the rest of it) is by reading it a little at a time; reading the poets/poems along with their related biographies/notes to get the most out of it.
Check out more about the book and other related resources at the LOA website.
A must have for classrooms and libraries everywhere; and a must read for all who love poetry or want to learn more about African American history or who love to read!
Highly highly recommend!
Get It Here
Disclaimer: Thanks to NetGalley and LOA for the digital review copy of this book. These opinions are my own and not influenced by anyone else.
- Magic Monday: 5 Children’s Books to Celebrate Black History Month
- Book Review: One Last Word by Nikki Grimes
- Lift Every Voice: Sing a Song
And Now, the End of This Post
Dear reader, as always, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions, as well as recommendations. If possible, use one of the devices as you write your comment!
The AtoZ Challenges
This is the first of the posts that I will be linking to both the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge and the BlogchatterA2Z-2021 this month (one letter each day except on Sundays, when I will be posting my Scribblings posts; fingers crossed that I get to the end of the month). My theme reveal post was here.