Four-Syllable Rock n’ Roll

Certain things can be counted without a parsing device, for example four-syllable words in rock n’ roll songs. I have often wondered why there are so many one syllable words in rock songs, and have a pet theory for this. Rock lyrics favor Anglo-Saxon words rather than Latinate words — the former have a more direct, less fussy sound — and since the Latinate words tend to be multi-syllabic compounds, multi-syllabic words (say, more than three syllables) tend to be very rare in rock music. Why exactly the monosyllable is appropriate to rock is something I cannot explain, although it may be related to another pattern I have observed: countries that underwent the Protestant Reformation seem to be the most adept at producing (not necessarily consuming) rock music, particularly heavy metal. Perhaps there is a connection here between Northern European linguistic practices (and the persistence of Anglo-Saxon forms) and the predisposition to religious violence in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, one that prepares these countries for immersion in a subsequent musical form like rock n’ roll.

In any event, I’d like to know what the longest Latinate word is that has been successfully used in a rock song. My candidate (based on popularity, not length) would be “satisfaction,” as in, “I can’t get no satisfaction.”

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One Comment

  1. jonathan
    Posted February 21, 2010 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    If the pre-Dare Human League count as rock, then ‘sericulture’ appears in ‘Being Boiled’: “Listen to the voice of Buddha, saying stop your sericulture”. I was reminded of this on a guided tour of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo (utterly tedious and not worth doing) – her Imperial Majesty the empress apparently has an interest in sericulture and cultivates her own silk worms from whose silk she weaves kimono belts.

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