Double dactylic sniff

Once I realized that I’d written “músk ănd tĕstóstĕròne” in my piece on “Scent and masculinity”, I saw that the double dactyl needed a poetic home.

The poetic constraints on the Double Dactyl form:

… a verse form, also known as “higgledy piggledy,” purportedly invented by Anthony Hecht and Paul Pascal in 1961, but having a history as a parlor word game earlier in the century. Like a limerick, it has a rigid structure and is usually humorous, but the double dactyl is considerably more rigid and difficult to write. There must be two stanzas, each comprising three lines of dactylic dimeter followed by a line with a dactyl and a single accent. The two stanzas have to rhyme on their last line. The first line of the first stanza is repetitive nonsense. The second line of the first stanza is the subject of the poem, [usually] a proper noun… Note that this name must itself be double-dactylic. There is also a requirement for at least one line of the second stanza [usually the second] to be entirely one double dactyl word, for example “va-le-dic-tor-i-an” … (Anthony Hecht and John Hollander, Jiggery-Pokery, A Compendium of Double Dactyls (New York: Atheneum, 1967))

Here’s my stab:

Buggery muggery,
Musk and testosterone,
Masculine scents make a
Great-smelling mate;

Axillar pleasures plus
Signals send messages
Out to your date.

(Axillar is a variant of the more common axillary ‘of the armpit’. Cruxiodiferous is invented, but should be transparent as ‘crotch-scented’. On crotch and crux, see here.)

9 Responses to “Double dactylic sniff”

  1. Jan Freeman Says:

    Re “cruxiodiferous,” I’m sure you know odiferous is a shortened version (though not quite a haplology) of ODORiferous. So you could delet that (awkward) i in “cruxi” and just make the word (and line) “cruxodoriferous.”

  2. Chris Says:

    I think that higgledy-piggledys are more entertaining than limericks, on the whole. When I realised that “Catherine Middleton” would fit quite nicely, I wrote:

    Catherine Middleton
    Commoner-born, will be
    Duchess, then Queen.

    Wedding Day streets feature
    Hoi polloi cheer and
    Republicans keen.

    I seem to remember that New York Magazine used to occasionally feature higgledy-piggledys in its weekly quiz.

  3. arnold zwicky Says:

    Back in April, on Language Log, we had the doubly-dactylic poet Saskia Hamilton, a possible subject for verse

  4. Riddle me, fiddle me « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] few days ago, the phrase musk and testosterone led me to the verse form the double dactyl, and I was reminded of the doubly dactylic poet Saskia Hamilton, who got attention from Ben Zimmer […]

  5. Rudy the Christmas Elf « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Undergear’s suggestive “Xmas package” ads from last year (here), with a holiday double dactyl […]

  6. Double dactyl for Easter « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] double dactyls, see here and […]

  7. Double dactyl in Dutch « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Double dactylic sniff (link), using the line “Musk and testosterone”, which is cheating, since it’s not a […]

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