The cadenza and the coda

Morning names for today (4/29), set off by a cadenza in a Mozart piano concerto that was playing when I got up just after midnight for a brief whizz break. The word cadenza led me immediately to coda, both musical bits coming at the end, also both sounding sort of Italian (which, in fact, they once were), indeed sounding very similar at their beginnings (/kǝd/ vs. /kod/) — but it turns out that though their etymologies both go back to Latin, a cadenza is a falling (or, metaphorically, a death) and a coda is a tail.

(#1) A tv ad: Help me! I’m in a cadenza and I can’t get up!

(#2) A linguistic Tom Swifty: “Coda, my ass! That’s a coati or a koala, I don’t know which”, quoted Cody in Kodiak.

Before things fracture completely into obscure allusions and elaborate wordplay, a bit of sober lexicography, summarized in NOAD:

noun cadenza: a virtuoso solo passage inserted into a movement in a concerto or other work, typically near the end. ORIGIN mid 18th century: from Italian (see cadence).

noun cadence: 1 [a] a modulation or inflection of the voice: the measured cadences that he employed in the Senate. [2] a modulation in reading aloud as implied by the structure and ordering of words and phrases in written text: the dry cadences of the essay. [3] a fall in pitch of the voice at the end of a phrase or sentence. [4] rhythm: the thumping cadence of the engines | try to vary your cadence during a run. 2 a sequence of notes or chords comprising the close of a musical phrase: the final cadences of the Prelude. ORIGIN late Middle English (in the sense ‘rhythm or metrical beat’): via Old French from Italian cadenza, based on Latin cadere ‘to fall’.

noun coda: Music [a] the concluding passage of a piece or movement, typically forming an addition to the basic structure: the first movement ends with a fortissimo coda. [b] the concluding section of a dance, especially of a pas de deux or the finale of a ballet in which the dancers parade before the audience. [c] a concluding event, remark, or section: his new novel is a kind of coda to his previous books. ORIGIN mid 18th century: Italian, from Latin cauda ‘tail’.

Latin reflexes of these in English include:

from cadō  ‘fall, die’: (with the cad– stem:) cadence, cadenza, cadaver; (with the cid– stem:) incident, accident, (grammatical) accidence, all those murderous –cide words (homicide, suicide, etc.)

from cauda ‘tail’: besides coda, some anatomical terms — noun cauda ‘a structure resembling a tail’, adjectives caudal, caudat

The noun accidence might be a surprise; it’s a now old-fashioned metaphorical technical term of grammar, in particular of morphology: accidence meaning ‘inflection’, referring to the inflectional forms of a lexical item. In the Latin grammatical tradition, a lexical item is referred to by its first principal part, — a specific form of the item — and the other forms are viewed as derived from this form, as metaphorically “falling” from it.

Examples of these citation forms for a verb, a noun, and an adjective:

V: 1sg present active indicative cadō ‘I fall’

N: nominative sg cauda ‘tail’

A: masculine nominative sg magnus ‘great, large’

Meanwhile, I had hoped that there would be uses of coda preserving the (animal) tail sense, especially with the metaphorical extension to human buttocks, which would then open up the possibility of specializing this use to the sense ‘piece of tail, buttocks considered as an object of sexual desire’ (esp. male buttocks). That would be a fine piece of sexual slang. Apparently that obvious semantic development has not yet happened; both GDoS and OED3 (Sept. 2020) lack a sexual sense for coda.

However, as a professional writer and a scholar of both grammar, style and usage and gender and sexuality, I have license to innovate — unaccountably, my actual License to Innovate (a spiffy gold-embossed certificate issued by the American Dialect Society to a select few, the veritable Shakespeares among us) has not yet arrived in the mail, but trust me, I know what I’m doing.

What I’m doing, specifically, is providing a fresh caption for this image from a 2021 Labor Day sale of Falcon Studios gay porn:


(#3) He scored a fine piece of gay coda at the takeout shop

But, before I descend into the playfulness of #1 and #2, a word about:

False cadenza / coda friends in English. Things that look like reflexes of Latin cadō and cauda in English, but aren’t. Some of these irrelevancies in brief:

cadet, caddie, cad (< Lat. caput ‘head)

cadre (< Lat. quadum ‘a square’)

caduceus (< Gk.)

codex ‘ancient manuscript text in book form; an official list of medicines’, codicil ‘an addition or supplement that explains, modifies, or revokes a will or part of one’ (< Lat. codex ‘block of wood’, later denoting a block split into leaves or tablets for writing on, hence a book)

I go into some detail on codicil because, during my midnight moment of urinary pleasure while listening to a Mozart cadenza, I was convinced that a /kad/ word that looked like a diminutive (in fact it is one) and referred to an addendum of some kind was obviously related to coda. Alas, even I sometimes leap to the lure of false friends. (So don’t feel bad if you do on occasion. But go for the facts, not good feelings.)

Goofy stuff, shading gay. Wordplay time, with #1 and #2. I won’t unpack everything, but I’ll at least refer glancingly to most of it.

(#1) A tv ad: Help me! I’m in a cadenza and I can’t get up!

#1 is, relatively speaking, starkly simple. There’s the tv commercial for the LifeLine medical alert system, with the pathetic cry “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”, and there’s the play on the etymological falling in cadenza. 

(#2) A linguistic Tom Swifty: “Coda, my ass! That’s a coati or a koala, I don’t know which”, quoted Cody in Kodiak.

#2 packs a big pile of stuff into a linguistic Tom Swifty (a joke form that will be unfamiliar to nearly all of my readers), and combines that with a play on the etymological tail in coda — not directly, but figuratively, in the noun ass (photo in #3). The noun ass appearing in the text as part of an idiomatic phrase. From NOAD:

phrase my ass: North American vulgar slang used to convey that one does not believe something that has just been said: sold out, my ass!

But the Tom Swifty. From my 12/23/16 posting “and the art horse you rode in on”, in a section on the joke form the Tom Swifty (We must hurry,’ said Tom swiftly), crucially involving (in this order) a verb of speaking, its proper-name subject, and a manner adverbial in –ly:

Linguists developed their own variant of the Tom Swifty, using adverbials of the form in L (where L is a language name), instead of manner adverbials in –ly. For example: “Down, Spot!”  he commanded in Dalmatian.

Then there’s phonological play on or (mostly) around the /kod/ of coda: in references to the coati and koala (both animals discussed on this blog), the verb form quoted (a crucial part of the Tom Swifty), the proper name Cody (another crucial part of the Tom Swifty), and the place name Kodiak (which is also a language name, and so fits into the linguistic Tom Swifty).

Cody. Available as FN or LN, and a very common gay porn name in both positions, possibly from William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody as a cowboy name (and from Cody WY, named after him). Cowboy names are high-masculinity names, so excellent for gay porn names. (I then wonder: has Cody Cummings ever done Brandon Cody? Has anyone ever risked taking the porn name Cody Cody?)

There’s even a Sean Cody gay porn video company, making high-end porn:


(#4) Sean Cody model Liev doing a sweetly seductive half-smile and a cock tease

Kodiak. From Wikipedia:

The Alutiiq language (also called Sugpiak, Sugpiaq, Sugcestun, Suk, Supik, Pacific Gulf Yupik, Gulf Yupik, Koniag-Chugach) is a close relative to the Central Alaskan Yup’ik language spoken in the western and southwestern Alaska, but is considered a distinct language. It has two major dialects [the first being]:

Koniag Alutiiq: spoken on the upper part of the Alaska Peninsula and on Kodiak Island

(Koniag and Kodiak are different spellings for the same place name / language name, Kodiak being the conventional spelling in English.)

CODA. Having slipped into gay mode with Cody, I was moved to wonder if there was gay coda in any use at all, forget the buttocks. Well, yes, sort of.

What there is is CODA / Coda Tours, “a leader in small group luxury travel for the gay and lesbian community” (from the website).

Unfortunately, I have found no clue as to the source of the name (which looks like an acronym, but for what?).

At the end of the day. Now, as the sun falls in the west and the Cody cadenza swells, our tour group bids farewell to the gay callipygian cowboys of Kodiak (where the bears come from).

2 Responses to “The cadenza and the coda”

  1. Mark Mandel Says:

    Not to be confused* with the acronym CODA, standing for (hearing) Child Of Deaf Adults; often encountered in sign language linguistics because CODAs are generally hearing native signers, and native or near-native bilinguals.
    * Or maybe “for humorous purposes, maybe ‘indeed to be confused with…’ “, adding another linguistic dimension to this whole business of the Codys and other codes of gay English. (Was “forget” (the buttocks) a computational misprediction from “for (…)”?)

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