20 November 2009

Christmas competition: What did Santa say before 'Ho-ho-ho'?

As we're going away tomorrow in search of some sunshine, I don't expect to be posting much until the end of November.

Needless to say, I'm hoping that regular readers will come back when blogging resumes.

Meanwhile, here are two things to keep you occupied while I'm gone.

The first, and this should be more than enough to keep the keenest anoraks going, is to catch up on the 350+ posts that have so far appeared on the blog - just in case you've missed any. You can access these from the Complete Bloglist Index on the left (under 'recommended websites), or you can type names or topics into the search box at the top and see if there's anything here about whatever it is you might be looking for.

You are also warmly invited to turn your mind to winning the:

2009 CHRISTMAS CREATIVE WRITING COMPETITION

Closing date: Midnight (UK time) on 21 December 2009.

Prizes:
1st: A signed copy of Lend Me Your Ears.
2nd: A signed copy of Speechmaking and Presentation Made Easy.
3rd: A signed copy (by Basil) of Basil's School Antics.

Further incentives:
Authors of the winning entries will be able to enjoy the glory and prestige of seeing their work posted here on Christmas Day.

The judge and jury (i.e. me) undertake to donate £5 to Wateraid for every entry received.

The Challenge:

The competition is based on something posted on this blog just before Christmas last year, which began as follows:

I’ve just received an email with Christmas greetings from the White House Writers Group in Washington D.C., which contains a nice little ditty:

Santa called the other day.
"I need a speech and right away!
It should sound new, but somehow old;
A message sweet, yet still quite bold.
My words must be both short and clear
And memorable throughout the year!"
Our writers worked all through the night
To get each phrase exactly right.
Then one scribe cried, "Ah ha! I know!
Tell Santa to say just, 'Ho, ho, ho!'


Rhetorically speaking, their use of repetition, contrasts, alliteration rhyme and a three-part list can hardly be faulted.

But, having just heard Santa using these very words 3,000 miles away from Washington, I realise that this memorable line raises another intriguing question, namely, what had he been talking about just before saying “ho, ho, ho”?

The reason for asking the question comes from many years ago when I heard the late Gail Jefferson talking about her fascinating and innovative work on transcribing particles of laughter, of which “ho, ho, ho” is one of several possible vowel sounds – such as “ha, ha , ha”, “he, he, he”, “huh, huh, huh”, etc.

The gist of Jefferson’s point was that which one of these gets selected often seems to be triggered by vowel sounds that had come immediately before it. Someone might say “he was stung by a bee – he-he-he!”, “he was locked in the bar – ha-ha-ha” or “she dropped a bottle of gin on her toe – ho-ho-ho”.

I didn’t catch what Santa had been saying just before he used the line that had been supplied to him by the
White House Writers Group, so there’s scope here for a pre-Christmas creative competition.

This year, your challenge is to write what Santa was saying that triggered his selection of the "ho-ho-ho" form of laughter.

There is no limit on the number of words and no restriction on the context in which he said whatever it was that he said. However, some of the vowel sounds in some of the words leading into the final three beats of laughter must be consistent with Gail Jefferson's observation as summarised above.

A few more hints about how sounds can trigger subsequent word selection can be found in another post from last December about Gordon Brown's 'saving the world' gaffe.

Entries must reach me by email before midnight (UK time) on 21 December (via email contact in 'view my complete profile' on the left).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks 4 info...nice blog

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