08 July 2006

piloklok @ weltmeisterschaft

Just got back from a tour of Europe covering the FIFA world cup for piloklok. You'd figure that with such a confluence of cultures, and me wandering a foreign country, there'd be a few linguistic tidbits to share. Indeed there were.

For the phonologically minded, there is the matter of a song a heard sung on the streets of Nuremberg (in front of Pizza Hut on Königstrasse) by Ghana fans following their team's 2-1 defeat of the US. To the tune of "If you're happy and you know it":

If you're happy for Ghana, say Ghana (Ghana!)
If you're happy for Ghana, say Ghana (Ghana!)
If you're happy and you know it
and you really want to show it
If you're happy for Ghana, say Ghana (Ghana!)

Not a compelling composition, but what sticks out is how the song forces primary stress on to the final syllable in Ghana. Look at the folowing scan, where each (foot) is a trochee (i.e., strong-weak):

(if you're)(happy)(for gha)(na: )(say gha)(na: )

Assuming primary stress usually occurs on the first syllable in the name Ghana, the scansion of the song forces it to move. Now, I'm only certain of stress placement in the country's name as spoken in English, an official language of Ghana. Some other widely-spoken languages of Ghana include Akan, Ewe, and Dagbar, but I don't know whether the name of the country as spoken in those or any of the other dozens of Ghanian languages has initial or final stress. (So the story might be that final stress makes the scan available, rather than that the scan forces a movement of stress from initial to final position).

Anyway, stress movement like this does happen in song, and there may be a term for it, but I either never learned it or forgot it. Meanwhile, I doubt this song is a standard for Ghana fans. They'd later lose to Brazil in the tournament, the last of 4 consecutive undermatched opponents for the Brazilians to face.

Another example of a stress shift shows up in an apparently more standard song sung for Dutch star Ruud van Nistelrooij (or Nistelrooy), to the tune of "Yellow Sumbarine" (where Ruud van = Yellow and Nistelrooy = Submarine). As with the languages of Ghana, I'm not confident about Dutch stress, but I do presume primary stress on Nistelrooy to appear on the initial syllable. But in the song, the lyric forces a shift of primary stress to the final (parallel to submarine). The Dutch also lost in the round of 16, so the moral is, if you want to win, leave stress where it is.

grand slam

Interesting discussion over at Literal Minded regarding the emergent usage of Grand Slam (in tennis journalism) to refer to a win in one leg of the four tournaments that make up the Grand Slam of tennis, instead of referring to a win in all four legs. Neal succinctly sums it up as a case of a compound losing its head.

I'd assumed the phrase Grand Slam was extended from baseball, where it refers to a home run with the bases loaded (thus scoring 4 - hence a shared notion of fourness). However, several commenters on Neal's post point to an earlier usage in bridge (taking all thirteen cards in one trick), which OED supports with citations older than the appearance of modern baseball. This means I have to add an amendment to the old post about the use of Grand Slam in different games.

Oxford's earliest baseball citation for Grand Slam is 1953, so it's a mystery where the baseball usage fits in relative to the bridge and tennis usages. Right now I have no way of determining the age of the tennis Grand Slam usage, but I suspect it may have developed by way of baseball. Here's why: in bridge, it invokes "all at once" (i.e., allness), and in tennis, it invokes "four important tournaments" (i.e., fourness). In its baseball usage, it invokes both: allness (in terms of runners on base, or highest score on one hit) and fourness (number of runs scored on a grand slam).

This is not the only example of a metaphor crossing from cards to different sports and with different usages; check out alternate usages of ace as "the best" and "score with one swing".