a shocking excess of syllables

I stumbled across a couple of meme-like posts last night that sparked both my interest and my concern. First this one, which referenced this one. The task described on the blog icedmocha was to:

Answer all thirty-five questions using only one word. It’s harder than it looks. Give it a try on your blog.

An interesting challenge. A provocative proposition. The particpants I read (the first two I saw, plus this third one) had come up with some fantastic single-word responses.

The problem? The posts, and apparently the meme, are entitled “Monosyllabic.” In spite of this, I witnessed a large number of polysyllabic words. Shocking, shocking. As someone who spends portions of her professional time finding syllables, hunting them down and tracking them in the wild, I felt it my duty to round up some bonafide monosyllables of my own.

1. Where is your cell phone?     bag

2. Relationship?     yes

3. Your hair?     brown

4. Work?     sounds

5. Your sister?     cool

6. Your favorite thing?     sleep

7. Your dream last night?     strange

8. Your favorite drink?     ale

9. Your dream car?     Peel’s

10. The room you’re in?     den

11. Your shoes?     docs

12. Your fears?     war

13. What do you want to be in 10 years?     prof

14. Who did you hang out with this weekend?     Phoebs

15. What you’re not good at?     hate

16. Muffin?     please!

17. One of your wish list items?     trip

18. Where you grew up?     earth

19. The last thing you did?     work

20. What are you wearing?     pants

21. What aren’t you wearing?     socks

22. Your pet?     gone

23. Your computer?     mac

24. Your life?     whole

25. Your mood?     calm

26. Missing?     Red

27. What are you thinking about right now?     words

28. Your car?     gray

29. Your kitchen?     mess

30. Your summer?     short

31. Your favorite color?     blue

32. When is the last time you laughed?     noon

33. Last time you cried?     days

34. School?     grad

35. Love?     John

There we go. 35 monosyllables that are more-or-less true responses. Another challenging task would be to come up with monomorphemic responses to those same questions. Or to come up with 35 questions, the answers to which could all be pants.

A view of a production of the polysyllabic monosyllabic, displayed in Praat, with approximate syllabification into 5 syllables marked. (No commitment to the affiliation of potentially ambisyllabic consonants intended.)

A view of a production of the monosyllabic pants, displayed in Praat, with syllabification into 1 syllable marked.

11 thoughts on “a shocking excess of syllables

  1. Oh that is so true! The meme should be renamed MonoVerbum, maybe…..one-syllable words are very challenging to come up with. I’ll give it a try.

  2. you know, you could have answered every question : dude.

    speaking of, i just saw your dude post. loved it. sorry i missed it. am adding you to a reader so i can not miss such things in my future.

  3. “The problem? The posts, and apparently the meme, are entitled “Monosyllabic.” In spite of this, I witnessed a large number of polysyllabic words. Shocking, shocking.”

    I’m rather careful with words, and I did wonder whether the title would be misconstrued. The definition I had in mind is the less common 2b shown below. Cheers! :)

    Function: adjective
    1 : having only one syllable : composed of monosyllables
    2 a : using or speaking only monosyllables b : conspicuously brief in answering or commenting : pointedly terse [merry where he was grave, talkative where he was monosyllabic — Dorothy Sayers]
    source: Merriam-Webster Unabridged

  4. This topic is simply scandalous. However, seeing as most of the U.S. population probably doesn’t even know what a syllable is; they’re just going to keep their attention on things like Ms. Hilton.


    p.s. Unless, of course, you can get incarcerated for saying something is monosyllabic when it’s not. And I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to hear that TOO is in the PATRIOT ACT. Imagine getting “waterboarded” for not knowing grammar.

  5. Chantal-
    Yes, perhaps MonoVerbum. (Too bad monologic is taken, what with the mono and logos.) I actually enjoyed the extra layer of challenge to find one-syllable words, but I’m goofy like that.


    I concede an alternate definition to the word. But I prefer the more literal meaning myself. I think I’d lobby for a term that means terse, but with few syllables. Perhaps paurosyllabic, based on the Greek root:

    pauros “few, little,”

    Yes, it is scandalous. The debate rages on. How many syllables are really appropriate? And why don’t we hear more about this topic from the media? Perhaps syllables need a celebrity spokesperson.

  6. monolexical?

    stjarna67- You say “imagine getting waterboarded for not knowing grammar” like that’s a bad thing.. Can we at least use it for apostrophe errors?

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