9/9: not a non-event

(Astonishingly, this silly posting will devolve into references to male pubes (NOAD entertains both /pjúbìz/ and /pjubz/ as pronunciations, by the way, so do as thou wilt) and photos of hunky young men stripped down to them, so it’s not to everyone’s taste.)

It is once again Negation Day, a festival for semanticists, also customarily the day for the annual convention of No Joke, aka the Society for Language Play.

This year, the semanticists will gather en masse at the Square of Opposition, where a statue of Larry Horn, caught in mid-smile, will be unveiled; and in collaboration with the No Joke meeting, there will be staged performances of Monty Python’s “Argument Clinic” sketch. Then, as usual: a clinic for those suffering from overnegation and undernegation; and a bazaar where shoppers can rummage for negative polarity items and reinforcements for their everyday negatives. (Just Don’t Do It: because of ugly incidents in the past, metalinguistic negatives have been banned from the festival site.)

From my 9/10/18 posting “Negation Day”:

I let it slip past, but yesterday was Negation Day, 9/9 (a little bilingual joke), which ought to be celebrated by linguists. Certainly it should not go uncelebrated.

The catch phrase for the day is, of course, “No, No, Nanette” [digression here with material on the musical comedy and movie] … In the French chamber-music version: “Non, Non, Nonet”.

Well, the “French version” will work only if Nonet is pronounced like English nonet (or a hypothetical French nonette), and not to rhyme (in French) with the name Monet (though Claude Monet and his rhyming artistic cousin Claude Nonet will become significant later in this posting). So it’s not much of a joke; my apologies for the AMZ of 2018.

Background. The higher-number chamber ensembles got their Italian names more or less directly as technical borrowings from Latin (with some adjustments for Italian phonology): 6 sestetto, 7 settetto, 8 ottetto, 9 nonetto. Same for English (which takes its musical vocabulary largely from Italian), but without the Italian masc.sg. affix –o: 6 sextet, 7 septet, 8 octet, 9 nonet. From NOAD:

noun nonet [pronounced like the phrase no net]: [a] a group of nine people or things, especially musicians. [b] a musical composition for nine voices or instruments [a metonymical development from sense a].

French, after beginning with various masculine patterns — 2 duo, 3 trio, 4 quatuor, 5 quintette (yes, masc. le quintette) — settles into the derivational affix –uor — 6 sextuor, 7 septuor, 8 octuor — and then just grinds to a halt: no nonuor, no nonette (French does have a word nonnette, but it has to do with nuns, literally or figuratively). After that, you leave the world of chamber ensembles and enter the world of chamber orchestras; what you have then is a petite symphonie (or a serenade or whatever for 9, or more, instruments). In English and Italian, you don’t cross that line until you get to 10 instruments. But eventually there has to be a line, or we’d be talking about 25-instrument chamber ensembles and music written for them.

Two actual nonets (sense b, a kind of musical composition), by Johan Kvandal, alongside a Mozart serenade for an octet (cf. sense a, a group of players), on a Norwegian Wind Ensemble recording:


Then, still in the world of serious uses of English nonet (but in playful fashion), this book of 9-line poems for children:


Now come the jokes. First, the inevitable English pun playing on “No, No, Nanette”. From the Chamber Music America site, a 9/16/19 concert “No, No, Nonet!” presented by Chamber Music Hawaii, with the program:

J.S. Bach, arr. Schweitzer – Prelude & Fugue in E minor, “The Wedge”; Knudåge Riisager – Divertimento, Op. 9;  Franz Lachner – Nonet in F major

Then a potential groaner pun on “No, No, Nanette”, which depends on your knowing that there’s a composer named Nono: Luigi Nono, who’s about as far from the frivolity of “No, No, Nanette” as you can get — a fact that would make Nono nonet even more absurd than if he were a composer of operettas.

From Wikipedia:

Luigi Nono (29 January 1924 – 8 May 1990) was an Italian avant-garde composer of classical music.

… The world première of Il canto sospeso [The Suspended Song] (1955–56) for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra brought Nono international recognition and acknowledgment as a successor to Webern. “Reviewers noted with amazement that Nono’s canto sospeso achieved a synthesis — to a degree hardly thought possible — between an uncompromisingly avant-garde style of composition and emotional, moral expression (in which there was an appropriate and complementary treatment of the theme and text)”.

… This work, regarded by Swiss musicologist Jürg Stenzl as one of the central masterpieces of the 1950s, is a commemoration of the victims of Fascism, incorporating farewell letters written by political prisoners before execution.

Nono did write chamber music, but I don’t believe he ever wrote a nonet. Pity. (Well, someone could invent one, with a title and backstory, if only for the sake of a joke. On the other hand, the agonized character of so much of his music makes it hard to play around with it.)

Finally, there’s a title that’s certainly a joke; it might be a (very distant) pun on “No, No, Nanette”, or — much more likely — it might merely involve the pleasure of repeating /ˌnoˈnɛt/ in no net nonet ‘(a) nonet (played) with no net’. From Travis Rogers, Jr.’s The Jazz Owl blog, “Working without a Net … Lucas Pino’s “No Net Nonet”” of  7/22/15 (a jazz nonet):

(#2) Note: ((work) with) no net, a variant of the (metaphorical) idiomatic phrase work without a net ‘to take action that’s risky or doesn’t rely on safeguards’ (from circus entertainers performing dangerous feats without benefit of safety gear)

Bonus: the anti-Nono and the anti-Nono. Not merely non-Nono (not Nono) but the polar opposite, the anti-Nono. Some composer of light-hearted music with a simple, conventional structure. Nominate your favorite.

But then there’s the anti-Nono. That presumably would be Sisi. There are several real-world candidates here, my favorite being the Empress Elisabeth of Austria. From Wikipedia:

Elisabeth (born Duchess Elisabeth in Bavaria; 24 December 1837 – 10 September 1898) was Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary by marriage to Emperor Franz Joseph I. She was born into the royal Bavarian House of Wittelsbach. Nicknamed Sisi …, she enjoyed an informal upbringing before marrying Emperor Franz Joseph I at the age of sixteen.

No, no, Nonet /ˌnoˈne/. Still further afield, to the little-known photographer Claude Nonet (rhymes with Monet), whose great subject has been the male pubes. From a Facebook exchange yesterday between CN and a gay friend of his who posts under the pseudonym Gravy Noodle (originally Wavy Gravy Noodle Bar, but that was way too long). Gravy Noodle is wonderfully extravagant in manner and enthusiastic about Nonet’s borderline-pornographic work, but sometimes twits his friend by affecting to be strait-laced about the exposure of the male body. This led to an exchange I’ve titled:

No, No, Nonet

CN: “Your Memories”: I wanted to share some of my hot-guy photos from a few years ago, but the sharing page just froze up so I couldn’t do anything at all with it. Maybe routine FB weirdness, maybe FB saving you all from indecent material, who knows.

GN: Indecent material?! Oh no, no, Nonet! I may have to reevaluate our friendship based on this revelation.

CN: The photos were cropped, but one — fetch the smelling salts! — included a bit of pubic hair (meanwhile, from the gallery, loud cries of “Where are the PENISES??”). I’m sorry if destroying your pubic innocence would threaten our friendship, but an artist must respect his materials: the male pubes are my poppy field near Argenteuil, my haystacks, my waterlilies.

From my 4/2/17 posting “Corey Saucier”, an early Nonet work:

(#3) “a pubic hair cock tease (also conveying power via his muscular pecs and neck)”

From my 5/20/20 posting “Minimalist, and sometimes antibacterial”, one of Claude Nonet’s recent masterworks:

(#4) An advanced pubic hair cock tease (one-sided), plus fiercely erect nipples; winner of the 2019 Prix de Giverny charnelle

3 Responses to “9/9: not a non-event”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    For another “sisi”, how about the President of Egypt?

    It turns out Peter Schickele, in his P.D.Q. Bach character, did produce a “No-no Nonette” (so spelled, according to this list). Of course he did.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      (For some reason, I had to approve you afresh as a commenter. Odd.)

      Yes, I considered the President of Egypt, but thought that it was always best to go with an Empress, if one was available.

      Oh, Schickele! How could I have forgotten? Of course he produced a “No-no Nonette”! Thank you for reminding me.

  2. Stewart Kramer Says:

    I think the plural of “pubis” (the pubic bone or the pubic region) looks just like the plural of “pube” (a pubic hair), but they’d be pronounced differently. Plurals of “base” and “basis” look like each other, too, and I think they’re clearly different words with slightly different meanings.

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