It is a silly little thing, hardly worth discussing, but still I want to discuss it.
So this is the theory and it has to do with the meanings of ha, or ha-ha, or ha-ha-ha.
A one-syllable ‘ha’. What does it mean? I hear Hub say it a lot. He says it when he is working on a problem and in the process something positive is accomplished or discovered. ‘Ha’ is a good thing.
Now think about ha-ha. Another positive meaning—something amusing.
But ha-ha-ha. Do you remember hearing that in conversation? If you do, did you notice the negative meaning? That three ha’s usually signify a kind of sneering contempt?
And of course, remember when you heard ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. Magically that lengthier repetition gives ‘ha’ a positive meaning of total hilarity.
So now that is the theory. The negativity of three ha’s is something I came upon recently in a book. I believe it was in “The Curiosity Shop” by Charles Dickens. (Don’t quote me on that though, because I finished the book a couple of weeks ago and was unable to relocate the page for reference.)
But going back to our original conversation, I have to say that when I think about my own experiences, I recall many times in conversations with friends, if a joke fell flat, the response from the audience to the joke-teller was invariably three evenly spaced ha’s. And other times, when a joke was very funny, the audience complemented the teller with four or more ha’s. So as silly as the theory is, I think it is true.
And so now, if the theory is true, why does the exact same syllable render such conflicting meaning dependent on the number of repetitions? Those three ha’s seed and expand an aggravation within similar to the aggravation of listening to a musical performance punctuated by errors.
And so, with this new enlightenment, I begin to wonder if one shouldn’t be mindful of syllabic rhythm when composing a love sonnet, or a poem honoring the beauty of nature? They say the magic in poetry is the coupling of the words with a hypnotizing rhythm and that might be more important than even the content of the text. So in light of the theory expressed in the foregoing paragraphs, it might be well to stay away from three-gaited syllabic lines or meters.
I mean, truthfully, wouldn’t we all be a little chagrined, if door bells went ding-dong-ding, and clocks went tick, tock, tick? My beeper alarm clock goes beep-beep-beep, beep-beep-beep and God help me, let’s not even go there.
I don’t know enough about musical bars, beats, and measures to analyze the syllabic beats, but I wonder if pleasant or disagreeable melodies are tied to this same theory? If the theory is correct, then perhaps the triple lilt is the flaw that splays emotions all over the back fence when seduction is what we had in mind.
So maybe it would be well for us to pay attention to the beat cause it might be sounds in our environment that layer distress in our minds. Maybe it’s not situations in our day-to-day lives. Maybe the real cause of our distress is syllabic triplets in the beat. I’m just saying.
And so, now in conclusion, I have given this a lot of thought in the past few days. And then just when I decided to dismiss it all, an eight-year-old from next door asked me if I wanted to play “knock, knock, knock”.
I immediately felt that flash of edginess that three ha’s engender and without thinking snapped, “I know whose there. Someone who can’t count!”
The thing I still remain unsure of is whether the aggravation is an uneven lilt or a three-legged lilt.