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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Preference for Plosives

Recently I’ve been reading the poetry of Marie Ponsot, and have been thinking about her use of sound, particularly of words that sound similar to one another.

I have always had a secret preference for the plosive sounds, particularly for “ch,” “k” and “p.” In fact, when I’m alone I will sometimes chant words containing those sounds, just for the pleasure of it: Ketchup, check-up, Chekhov, cupcake. Chopstick, Chapstick, Chippendale, I might say. Chewbacca, Chickpea, chickadee, Pekinese, Peking duck, pickup truck. (And actually, “ch” is an affricate, beginning like a plosive and moving into a fricative, or so I’ve been told.)

When  I started studying Japanese, I rejoiced to learn more words containing these sound: chikuwa (a fish paste food), Pikachu (a Pocket Monster).

One night shortly after I married my husband, I was having trouble sleeping. He, on the other hand, was breathing deep measured breaths. So in the darkness I began my litany, “Picnic, chickory, patchwork, pitchfork, Chappaquiddick. Chapel, cheapskate, chocolate chip, Chippewa.”

“What are you saying?” said my husband suddenly.

Oops. So I hesitantly explained my preference for certain sounds. “What?” exclaimed my husband. “It’s not enough you have favorite numbers? You have to have favorite letters too?”

“Actually, it’s the sounds, not the letters,” I said, offering the consonant digraph example of “ch,” and the fact that the “k” sound can be represented by letters c or k, or by the consonant blend ck, as examples of that distinction. My husband was silent for a short while.

“Okay,” he finally said.

“It’s fun. You should try it,” I offered.

“No, thanks,” he said, going back to sleep. But he did go out and buy me a Pikachu doll that says its own name when you squeeze its stomach. “Pikachu. Pi-pikachu,” it says, to my delight. Now my kids’ friends come over, and sometimes ask if they can take the Pikachu doll home. “Sorry, you can’t,” they are told. “It’s our mom’s.”

So, sounds. As a source of pleasure. Which ones work for you?

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