Ballad Measure, Emily Dickinson, and Gilligan’s Island

Ballad measure, or common meter, is a stanza of four lines. The 1st and 3rd lines have 4 beats and the 2nd and 4th lines have 3 beats with a silent 4th. Here’s Emily Dickinson in ballad measure:

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

Once you hear it, you can’t unhear it. It goes, with emphasize on the syllables in all CAPS):

he KINDly STOPPED for ME (buhm BUHM)

A fair amount of familiar songs are written in the same meter. Like “Amazing Grace, this famous Coca-Cola song. Reading the Dickinson poem I quote above with one of these melodies is… pretty awesome. For another example, you can sing this Neil Young song to the tune of the theme to Gilligan’s Island:

Old man lying by the side of the road
With the lorries rolling by
Blue moon sinking from the weight of the load
And the buildings scrape the sky

Cold wind ripping down the alley at dawn
And the morning paper flies
Dead man lying by the side of the road
With the daylight in his eyes

A Blog, or: 10,000 Noiseless Typewriters

I wanted to name this blog something more exciting than “blog.” So I went looking around for synonyms and then wandered over to the Google Ngram viewer to see if usage of “blog” was declining and, yep, it is.

But who are these people blogging int he 1920s/30s?

The earliest usage of “blog” cited by the OED is from on May 23, 1999. And Wikipedia dates it a few years earlier to 1997.

Searching Google Books returns earlier instances, like Volume 42 of The Magazine of Business, 1922. The word appears in an ad for noiseless typewriters, or rather: The Noiseless Typewriter.

The problem is pretty easy to spot: optical character recognition is confusing the abbreviation “BLDG” for… blog.

Sadly, no one in the 1920s was blogging after all. But I was happy to see both the Woolworth Bldg and the Park Row Bldg are still around and being blogged about. For example, NYC Urbanism has fascinating photos documenting the Woolworth building’s 7,500 tons of architectural terra cotta. From 1913 to 1930, it was the tallest building in the world. This blog entry on the Park Row building contains some great historical dramatic details on shady goings-on known as the Ice Trust scandal (which even involved the mayor at the time and Tammany Hall).

So, no blogs in 1920, but lots a person could blog about.