Saturday, March 9, 2013

Word of the Day: “pitch-pipe”

I was leafing through James Jeans’ classic book about the physics of music, when suddenly this word formed in my mind:


It hung there in a sort of thought-balloon, while I gaped and admired it.

Jeans himself had not used that compound as such, though there was much talk of pipes and of pitches, which doubtless suggested it.   Anyhow, the point is, it is a word I heard frequently enough in childhood  -- probably our kindergarten teacher used one, to lead our little voices  (which paid little heed to rhythm and less to pitch) in such old favorites as “Oh Where oh Where has my Little Dog Gone?” -- Enfin bref. --  The point being, I have not heard this once-familiar word in over fifty years, so far as I am aware.  Imagining it again was like a bite of the madeleine.

Now, my readership must by this point suspect that I am truly graveled for matter, if I stoop to retrieve such a trifle as that.   But hold your horses -- I am coming to the point!   The point is -- well actually, it’s a different point entirely, but it’s a lazy Saturday morning and here we are -- the thing is, the nub, le hic, is that Wikipedia has a quite engrossing article on this humble instrument of my nursery days, which beginneth thus:

A pitch pipe is a small device used to provide a pitch reference for musicians without absolute pitch.

Now, to put it that way is stunning, for those of us in the ninety-nine percent.  A real musician’s inside-the-Beltway perspective, you might say, for lack of a better metaphor.   And in this spirit, the Lexicography Division here at the World of Doctor Justice (roughly half of the world’s lexicographers are employed in our own Genevan sweatshop)  offers the following definitions:

encyclopedia:  a reference work in which people ignorant of the facts of the world can look them up

socket wrench:  a hand tool for removing a nut from a bolt, used by those too enfeebled to simply twist the thing off

scientific calculator:  a remedial instrument that calculates logarithms, cube roots, trigonometric functions, etc., for those who are too dim to perform these simple operations in their heads.

No comments:

Post a Comment