I’m sure you know about poetic meter.  It may be Shakespeare that you think of first—although for me, it’s always been Descartes:  I think, therefore iamb.

Okay, perhaps I peaked too soon.  Perhaps you think, “if that’s a peak—then Facebook, here I come”.  So let me get my feet out of my mouth and take another shot.

Iamb, trochee, spondee, dactyl, and the rest.  Someone mad or stupid must have coined these names.  Every time, I have look them up.   Thank the Lord for Google, I suppose.  Phyrric.  Really?  That's a meter? 

Never mind the major nightmares shown on our TVs.  We can fix this mess, at least.  Let's have every name reflect its pattern.  Trochee is the poster child for this.  TRO-chee, TRO-chee, TRO-chee.  Say it, and you know just what it means.  Yes...but take a look at dactyl.

What do you hear when somebody says "dactyl"?  It's only two beats, but the meter has three.  And the fix is so obvious.  Just switch the names!  Take the name amphibrach (AM-phi-brach, AM-phi-brach).   Steal it for dactyl and call it a day, because nobody talks about amphibrach anyway.

But you can’t fix them all in this way, sad to say.  Because none of the names—the names we were taught—the terrible, meaningless names we were taught—have three beats and then ends with the stress on the last.  You could say an-a-PEST if you want--go ahead!  But you’ll sound like a rube. 

It doesn't matter.  No one writes in meter anymore, anyway.

MORE
4/17 '18 7 Comments
You just reminded me of a ridiculous children's book I read when I was around 10, "Fast Talking Dolphin" by Carson Davidson. I had to look it up, and let me tell you that was no simple search. I am positive that my interest in poetic meter and obscure forms can be traced back to reading this book obsessively over the summer.

A Dolphin falls out of a plane into a pond in the woods. Kid finds him there. Dolphin can talk. Dolphins, as it happens, all talk in rhyming verse and social class is determined by the *meter*. The dolphin in the pond is an Anapestic dolphin and quite proud of the fact thankyouverymuch. The book also features a Rube Goldberg contraption the kid makes to slowly feed the right amount of salt-water into the pond. and a classic "adults are going to find out and ruin everything, what will kid and dolphin do?" plot.

So you know, it spoke to me on a lot of levels..
Paul Lord 4/17 '18
I just bought "Fast Talking Dolphin". You should have been a salesman.

I was hoping it would speak to you on a lot of levels. I wonder if it will to others...
Scott Stevens 4/17 '18edited
When I think of a dactyl, before I think metric form, I think dinosaurs. As in terradactyl... It did odd things to the inside of my head in prosody class in college, I can tell you. And I also need a copy of Fast Talking Dolphin now....
Karen Hoofnagle 4/18 '18edited
I was hoping to work "pterodactyl" into the dactyl paragraph, but it's trochee, so there was no way it was going there...and I needed the end of the trochee paragraph to transition to dactyl!
Scott Stevens 4/19 '18
And now I realize I googled to get the spelling right and grabbed the rap album name instead of the dinosaur name and am feeling extra silly.... I may have to listen to Serengeti now just so I know what the heck I grabbed.

Karen Hoofnagle 4/19 '18edited
I am now the proud owner of a copy of Fast-talking Dolphin, published by Scholastic Book Services in 1978. I have learned that

The most casual thought
Can become quite majestic
When properly rhymed
In the best anapestic.

So saith the dolphin. So saith we all.
Scott Stevens 4/21 '18edited
It's so bonkers I can't not love it.
Paul Lord 4/21 '18