Beat Zippy said to Beat Griffy

In the Zippy strip from 3/2, Beat Zippy and Beat Griffy walk MacDougal Street in 1961:

(#1) “Yowl” is Zippyish for “Howl”, Ginsberg’s most famous poem

The basics, from Wikipedia:

Reality Sandwiches is a book of poetry by Allen Ginsberg published by City Lights Publishers in 1963. The title comes from one of the included poems, “On Burroughs’ Work”: “A naked lunch is natural to us,/we eat reality sandwiches.” The book is dedicated to friend and fellow Beat poet Gregory Corso.

Appended to the article, this excerpt from Bill Morgan’s I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg (Penguin Books, 2007) (Morgan was Ginsberg’s personal archivist and bibliographer from the early ’80s until the author’s death in 1997):

“On Burroughs’ Work”

According to legend, while Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac were editing Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs, Kerouac suggested the title; when Ginsberg asked what it meant, Kerouac said they’d figure it out later. This is perhaps an attempt at understanding. It is unusual for a Ginsberg poem because it is so overtly metaphorical. This is likely a purposeful deviation from his normal style since he, for example, ironically calls symbolic language and allegories useless “dressing” and “lettuce.” The style overall suggests a parody of formal poetry. He uses allegories and near-rhymes: “those” and “Rose”; “us” and “lettuce”; “visions” and “prisons,” and so on. The form would be considered an imperfect ballad stanza, with the first and third lines in each stanza being nearly an iambic tetrameter and the first and third lines being nearly iambic trimeter. This is a traditional form used, for example, by William Wordsworth. The mistakes in the meter are likely purposeful; Ginsberg’s early poetry suggests that he was fully capable of writing metered poetry. But this is perhaps not only an homage to Burroughs but an homage to Ginsberg’s mentor William Carlos Williams. Williams encouraged Ginsberg to break away from meter and focus only the object with no “symbolic dressing.”


Linguistic note. On what Morgan takes to be the near-rhyme (not full rhyme) those / Rose. Most readers will be puzzled by this; for them, both words have /oz/, with different phonetic realizations for the vowel: [oʊ] for most American speakers, but with a fronted variant (the precise phonetic details vary) in standard British and in most Midland, Mid-Atlantic, and Southern U.S. varieties.

Now the complexity. Although classically, sound change was assumed to apply uniformly, affecting the realization of all occurrences of a phoneme (like /o/, fronting from earlier back [oʊ]) at the same time, sometimes the change spreads gradually through the lexicon, affecting some occurrences of the phoneme before others. The fronting of [oʊ], in particular, has proceeded gradually in this fashion for some speakers of Mid-Atlantic American English. I am, or at least was, one such speaker.

As far as I can reconstruct things, I believe I had [oʊ] generally for /o/ as a child (in my Pennsylvania Dutch-influenced variety of English). But then an assortment of sound changes spread socially from Philadelphia varieties into Pennsylvania Dutch country, substantially affecting the speech of some of my schoolmates (those with a strong local / rural social identification largely failed to participate in the shifts; the differences were quite noticeable, especially among the boys).

In any case, for me the fronting of [oʊ] to something like [ǝʊ] spread gradually though occurrences of /o/ for many Philadelphia speakers, and then for many to the northwest of Philadelphia (where I lived). Frequent words and accented words were especially affected; so the relatively uncommon word loam and the often relatively unaccented word those tended to escape the shift. ([hǝʊm] for home and [rǝʊz] for rose sound fine to me, but [lǝʊm] for loam sounds ridiculous, and [ðǝʊz] for those would have to be heavily emphasized in its sentence.)

All of which is to say that for some people some of the time, rose and those do not in fact fully rhyme; they are merely half-rhymes. I assume that this is true for Bill Morgan (and possibly was for Ginsberg as well). As Morgan points out, Ginsberg didn’t shy away from half-rhymes; it just might come as a surprise to many readers that those and rose / Rose could be examples of it.

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