Gold as Gold—and other alliterations
Words that share sounds can add razz-a-ma-tazz to your writing.
I’m Jim Lamb—let’s get started.
Listen carefully to these four lines from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:
“The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.”
Did you notice the words fair, foam, flew, furrow, followed, and free? All start with the F sound. All sound alike. That literary technique is called “alliteration.”
Let me expand that: Alliteration is the repetition of initial sounds in a string of words. This pattern helps make the groupings memorable.
I like alliterations.
Because they’re catchy... it’s that simple.
But it’s not just me.
Comic books writers discovered this lively literary device years ago.
How do you think they ended up with character names like: Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luther, Peter Parker, J. Jonah Jameson, Steven Strange, and (of course) Wonder Woman.
(If I were a comic book character, I’d be Louie the Lamb. Or maybe Larry.)
Movie titles are a great exercise in alliteration. Here just a few: “Gone Girl.” “Batman Begins.” “Air America.” “La La Land.”
When I was a kid, there was a movie called “Beach Blanket Bingo.” It starred Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Ask your grandparents about that one. (“Beach Blanket Bingo” — they don’t make movies like that anymore.)
Marketing people love alliterations. That’s why businesses have names like: PenPal, Best Buy, Cola-Cola, and Dunkin’ Donuts.
Products, too: Kellogg’s Cornflakes, Captain Crunch, Baby-Back Ribs, and Tonka Toys
Cartoon characters offer a treasure trove of alliterative gems. Think about it. … You’ve got: Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Woody Woodpecker, Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and my favorite: Spongebob Squarepants.
It’s almost impossible to get away from alliterative combinations. Let’s say you just want to relax, and enjoy sports over the weekend. Maybe watch some Sports Center — which is, in itself, an excellent alliteration.
Some sports fans in New York probably watch the Buffalo Bills.
New England? Boston Bruins.
Ohio? Cleveland Cavaliers.
Illinois? Chicago Cubs.
In Pennsylvania, fans can catch a match-up between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies. Unless they’re hockey fans ... Then they’d probably watch the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Alliterations are everywhere.
I’m a Baby Boomer. That’s a great alliteration.
Here are some others:
If you’ve got a product or service that carries your whole business, you’ve got what they call “a Cash Cow.”
You don’t want your kid to shoot an eye out during Christmas? Better not buy that kid a B-B gun.
Maybe you want your son or daughter to grow up to be a successful geek like those guys and gals on “Big Bang.” Here’s an idea: Why not invest in a Bunsen burner? That’ll light up their life.
If you’re old like me, you might contact Meals On Wheels. (Not exactly an alliteration, but it does rhyme.) Maybe you’re a young kid who wants to play Hungry Hippos. (That’s definitely alliteration.) Or maybe you need extra money and decide to sell sea-shells by the sea-shore. Or pick a peck of pickled peppers for your pal, Peter Piper.
It’s not just people, places, and things that get the treatment. Sayings do, too. Examples:
Good as gold.
Cold as a cucumber.
Cream of the crop.
Dead as a doornail.
Head over heels.
Live and learn.
Sink or swim.
Super-Size … and of course.
Trick or treat.
If I’ve not included your favorite example here, just sent me a note, and I’ll add it to list. Whatever you do, don’t start ranting and raving. When it comes to alliteration, it’s best not to make a mountain out of a molehill—if you know what I mean.
I’m Jim Lamb—and you’ve just learned a little somethin’-somethin’ about “Alliteration.”
© 2019 j.s.lamb