Short shot #52: ten-stone cowboy

As my dieting closes in on 11 stone (1 (British) stone = 14 lbs.), I am reminded that my goal, the return to 140 lbs. after nearly a decade away, figured in a cute pun made by Ann Daingerfield Zwicky many years ago, when she quipped that I’d become

a ten-stone cowboy

(playing on the title of the country-pop song “Rhinestone Cowboy”, written by Larry Weiss and famously performed by Glen Campbell).

It’s a distant pun, /tɛn/ for /rajn/, but it works, if you know about the song; otherwise, it’s just mysterious.

(Small phonological note: ten-stone and rhinestone differ prosodically, though both have primary accent on their first syllable and some accent on their second: the second syllable of ten-stone has a heavier accent than the second syllable of rhinestone. There are two schemes for transcribing this difference: either by distinguishing a secondary and a tertiary accent (both distinct from unaccented), 1 2 vs. 1 3; or by transcribing the words as 1 1 vs. 1 2 (positing only one non-primary accent), with the understanding that in 1 1 compound words, the first syllable has a phonetically heavier accent than the second.)

5 Responses to “Short shot #52: ten-stone cowboy”

  1. Ben Zimmer Says:

    For the sake of the pun, you could try to be a nine-stone cowboy! Ah, turns out that’s the name of an indie band from Oxford.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    To Ben Zimmer: Ah, when Ann said that, I was in Brighton (Sussex) — she was in Columbus (Ohio), hearing about all of this by transatlantic mail — suffering from a dreadful intestinal ailment that was taking me down from my normal 10 stone towards 9 stone, a decidedly unhealthy weight for me, and one I don’t want to reach, even for the sake of an almost-perfect pun.

  3. Jonathan Lundell Says:

    The second syllable of rhinestone is emphasized somewhat in the song, though, partly because of the rising pitch, and partly because rhine-stone-cow-boy gets four strong beats.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      To Jonathan Lundell: As you know, there are three kinds of organization here: the prosodic/metrical organization of speech, the prosodic/metrical organization of poetry or lyrics, and the rhythmic/temporal organization of music. The mappings between them — between speech and poetry, and between text and tune — can be complex.

      In particular, for poetic and musical purposes, secondary and tertiary accents in speech can count as primary accents or as unaccented, depending on the context.

      As if that weren’t enough, there can be variant poetic readings and also variant musical interpretations.

  4. Fair mammoth ears « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] [Even the modest street fair in my neighborhood is a minefield of food that is regrettable for someone in the grip of multiple restrictive diets. Not so hard to resist, though, when the street is lined with places offering all sorts of non-fair food, and still more places are just a block or two off the street. It's not like you're trapped in a gigantic fenced-in fairground. So I resisted, and am now an 11-stone cowboy, still aiming for 10 stone. […]

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