And the winner…

(the winner of the Gasoline Prize, that is) is… Sam, for two entries that are not quite what I asked for: they’re not exactly As/tor Bars, but they’re close, and interesting in themselves. Both phenomena, like As/tor Bars and Susie Couplets (“go to / Hello operator”) break during a line and frustrate the hearers’ expectations.

In an As/tor Bar, the hearers are led to believe that a word within a line has been completed (the result being naughty or anomalous in context ), but the line continues with the remainder of a larger word. In a Susie Couplet, instead of an expected naughty word, the first line of the couplet breaks without completion and the second line begins with a word that’s phonologically related to the expected word.

Sam #1 has an internal line break, at a point where the hearer anticipates a rhyming word — which, however, doesn’t quite fit into the meaning of the verse — that is then replaced by a surprise that doesn’t rhyme at all:

… from another Foremen song Everyman (for himself):

When you’re a Black, Chicano, Native-American, Jewish lesbian folk singer
And this morning when you woke up you hit your head on the steering wheel
You’re shoulder deep in shit
And you just wanna quit
I know how you [pause, then spoken quickly] can get a handgun without the usual background check

Where the comedic tension comes because the rhyme that’s set up is wheel/feel, which would lead to “I know how you feel”, which is impossible for this song’s voice.

Sam #2 has a line breaking off while a word is in progress, at a point where a naughty continuation that would fit both rhyme and sense is expected, but instead the line ends with innocuous, and non-rhyming, material:

Another one from a children’s song (Mary Had a Little Lamb / The Battle Cry of Freedom )

Mary had a little lamb / she also had a duck / she put them on the window / to see if they would f….all off

Not on a syllable boundary.

In all four cases, we have intentionally frustrated  expectations of something naughty at a break within a line.

So Sam gets the loot, such as it is. And I know how to get to Sam electronically and can ask him for a physical address (how do you say this?).

3 Responses to “And the winner…”

  1. rozele Says:


    and makes me wonder how these relate (historically, linguistically, &c) to “catches” (phrases, usually bawdy, created by the sequencing of words and pauses in a sung round – e.g. this clean one: a genre in decline, but popular enough to leave us a dead metaphor (“catch phrase”) to remember it by…

    also, this brings to mind the more extreme subversion of expected rhyming that comes up (and provides the laughs and groans) in limericks like this one:

    there once was a man of st. bees
    who was stung in the arm by a wasp
    when asked “does it hurt?”
    he replied “no, it doesn’t –
    i’m so glad it wasn’t a hornet”

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    To rozele: The Man of St. Bees limerick is more interesting than your routine limerick with an expectation-frustrating last line, since none of the lines rhyme –but the expressions in rhyming position are semantically related (bees – wasp – hornet; hurt – doesn’t [hurt]).

    There’s a minor genre of humorous rhymed poetry (not just limericks) in which only the last line breaks expectations.

  3. Shaving Cream « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] [See parallels on this blog, here.] […]

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