July 3, 2019

The Oxford English Dictionary "Word of the Day" is "Dylanesque."

The (unlinkable) OED defines "Dylanesque":
Resembling or reminiscent of Bob Dylan or his work, esp. his songs or records, which are characterized by poetic, often enigmatic, lyrics, a distinctive, abrasive vocal delivery, and music rooted in traditional American styles, such as folk, blues, and country; (sometimes) spec. typical or redolent of the folk music of his early records, which combined lyrics of social protest with acoustic guitar and harmonica playing.
I read that definition out loud to Meade and — saying I thought "poetic, often enigmatic, lyrics" got to the heart of it — asked him to dredge up a "Dylanesque" line from the junkpile of his memories. He said:
And she buttoned her boot
And straightened her suit
Then she said, “Don’t get cute”
That's "Fourth Time Around."

I said the first thing that came to my mind was:
Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
But I knew I only thought that because I remember Bob on "60 Minutes" saying:
I don’t know how I got to write those songs.... All those early songs were almost magically written. Ah… “Darkness at the break of noon, shadows even the silver spoon, a handmade blade, the child’s balloon…” Well, try to sit down and write something like that.
If I'd really consulted the junkpile of my memories, I'd have said:
You know it balances on your head
Just like a mattress balances
On a bottle of wine
So you can see how Meade and I go together — he's got the suit getting straightened and I've got the leopard-skin pillbox hat balancing on the head. There is order over chaos in the midst of the poetic, often enigmatic.

By the way, I'm working on writing up my post for the 1964 entry in my "imaginary music project," and by chance it contains a ridiculous Dylan lyric:
Now the beach is deserted except for some kelp...
You always responded when I needed your help
Is that Dylanesque? It's not enigmatic. It's just a very ordinary statement about a relationship —  "You always responded when I needed your help" — and daring to put the least possible effort into finding a rhyme for "help."

The best advice re song lyrics and "help" — which only has 2 other rhymes ("whelp" and "yelp") — is don't put it at the end of a line. When The Beatles wrote a whole song "Help," they kept it at the beginning of lines, and made the words at the ends of lines all easy to rhyme ("down," "way," "ways," "insecure").

Do The Beatles have their own entry in the Oxford English Dictionary? Yes, but it's just "Beatle" — "Applied attributively to the hair-style or other characteristics of ‘The Beatles’ or of their imitators." The examples — all from the mid-60s — are about things other than poetry: "the Beatle cut," "Beatle fans," "Beatle wallpapers," "Beatle wigs."

And that sends me back to the enigmatic junkpile of Dylan lyrics. Dylan has 5 song lyrics with "wig" (and if you can name all 5 you get a Bob Dylan merit badge):
1 & 2 (the same line is in 2 different songs): "... they’re beatin’ the devil out of a guy/Who’s wearing a powder-blue wig..."

3. "... Jezebel the nun she violently knits/A bald wig for Jack the Ripper..."

4. "I can write you poems, make a strong man lose his mind/I’m no pig without a wig/I hope you treat me kind..."

5. "She took off her wheel, took off her bell/Took off her wig, said, 'How do I smell?'"
I wish I knew, but I've got this anosmia/I wish I could wake up and smell the cosmea...

IN THE COMMENTS: khematite remembers a 6th Bob Dylan "wig" lyric (which was obscured from my search because it's "wig-hat" (and I've always found that a funny expression, because a wig is a kind of hat, isn't it?))?
I sat with my high-heeled sneakers on
Waiting to play tennis in the noonday sun
I had my white shorts rolled up past my waist
And my wig-hat was falling in my face
But they wouldn’t let me on the tennis court
Hey! Man in shorts! Bob Dylan in shorts. Has that ever even happened?
I'm going to say no.

55 comments:

Birkel said...

Dylan has had a longer run than the guy on the beltway.

peacelovewoodstock said...

Is it Dylanesque to play a concert with your back to the audience?

Fernandistein said...

Dewey Cox?

Yes, he does.

Lucid-Ideas said...

Dylanesque. Adjective.

As being similar to Jamaican Rapper Dylan Dili. Similar to 'having no skill' while believing in one's own ability to 'spit hot fire'.

tcrosse said...

Poor old Dylan Thomas, victim of a literary name-jacking.

Warren Fahy said...

I helped get the word "mullet" into the OED. The editor of the Beastie Boys magazine, Grand Royal, asked me to write a faux "Ancient History of the Mullet." Beastie Boy Mike D. coined the word for the notorious hairstyle and wanted to make it stick. The issue included several articles branding the coiffure with the moniker and what do you know, it stuck! Several years later it became so popular the OED added it to the roll.

wild chicken said...

I've seen "Beatlesque" used for years. Lots of Beatlesque music out there, or there was.

Michael said...

My physical OED is from the early 80s and therefore does not “keep up” with new lingo.

Kay said...

I’m interested in the idea of songs magically writing themselves. Of an art process that’s unconscious. Is it something about being young that fuels that sort of creativity?

Henry said...

"She took off her wheel, took off her bell/Took off her wig, said, 'How do I smell?'" I wish I knew, but I've got this anosmia/I wish I could wake up and smell the cosmea...

Well I wish I could help, but you don't want my help,
Under all her onion gook, she smelled like kelp.

Fernandistein said...

Well, try to sit down and write something like that.

When she said, "No, deaf"
And you, you loved me through her
My very last piece of that picture
that I got up my face until breaking the hallway,
she said, "Your words, there and hummed"

I was deaf
And she screamed 'til her drum asked for some
She screamed 'til breaking my pockets
An' said, "No, dear"

I cried and felt with my shoe
And brought
I'd forgotten my shoe
And felt with my shirt

It was then
Thought it waste your crutch
Now wasted to leaned up and knockets
And wheelchair
That leaned her
My everyone was through her drum I ask for mine.

Fernandistein said...

(5th order)

When she worked on her for something back
For some she said, "Your wheelchair
That leaned up and hummed"

I waited in the dirt where everyone walked
And brought her suit

Then she did come,
I asked her up against
Her Jamaican rum
And brought her boot

And I tried
She fell on the hallway, she said
"Don't ask for mine"

khematite said...

Not going to accept "wig-hat"?

I sat with my high-heeled sneakers on
Waiting to play tennis in the noonday sun
I had my white shorts rolled up past my waist
And my wig-hat was falling in my face
But they wouldn’t let me on the tennis court

traditionalguy said...

It’s a dylanesque day. Celebrate with our soft spoken President carrying a few Tanks and Armored Personel Carriers.

DarkHelmet said...

Dylanesque: crappy music that early Baby Boomers have convinced themselves is profound. There's a lot of Dylanesque music out there.

Ann Althouse said...

"I've seen "Beatlesque" used for years. Lots of Beatlesque music out there, or there was."

Shouldn't it be "Beatleseque"?

How do you pronounce your word, BEET-lesk? My spelling gets you to BEET-ulls-esk, which is what you want.

I remember when Federico Fellini accepted some award at an Oscars ceremony, many years ago, and he didn't speak English well, but he needed to say the word "Felliniesque" (which is in the OED, defined as "Relating to, characteristic of, or reminiscent of Fellini, his films, or his style; often spec.: fantastic, bizarre; lavish, extravagant"). He pronounced it using an Italian approach: fehl-lee-nee-ESS-kay. I thought that was sweet.

Oso Negro said...

Speaking of "Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat", I particularly enjoyed:

It looks so good
I'd like to jump on it sometime
I'd like to see
If it really is the expensive kind

jaydub said...

Dylanesque, i.e., atonal.

Dave Begley said...

I have got to think that Bob Dylan has to be aware of Althouse's fandom. He really ought to get on his jet and just show up at Meadehouse some day.

The time is getting late.

D 2 said...

It's the "n" that helps with the "esque". You might say Clintonesque but you likely wouldn't say Swiftesque or Trumpesque to think of two modern day folks who might get such an appellation. Likely you'd say Swiftinian or Trumptonian.

Jay Vogt said...

Althouse said, "By the way, I'm working on writing up my post for the 1964 entry in my "imaginary music project," and by chance it contains a ridiculous Dylan lyric. . . . . "

Well that pretty much blows my guess as to the '64 movie, which was "The Killers" with, Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, John Cassavettes & Ronald Reagan.

Pretty sure there's no BD lyrics in that movie.

Amexpat said...

Dylanesque is also the name of a Bryan Ferry album. Some good covers on it. Like "Positively Fourth Street" sung as a lament instead of a rant. Almost as good as Johnny Rivers version.

Earnest Prole said...

See the primitive wallflower freeze
When the jelly-faced women all sneeze
Hear the one with the mustache say,
“Jeeze I can’t find my knees”
Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule
But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel

Dave Begley said...

1964 movie has to be a kids movie as Ann was a pre-teen then. I first thought Mary Poppins, but I'm wrong.

Jay Vogt said...

When I was a kid, my mom somehow got a "Word of the Day" one time and that word was "Dickensian" - of or pertaining to the circumstances described in a Charles Dickens novel. She tried to use it all the time.

Needless to say it was not "Fetch"

Amexpat said...

I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment I could be you
Yes, I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
You'd know what a drag it is to see you


Those are very Dylanesque lyrics, if sung by Dylan.

Kay said...

When I’m thinking about writing that resembles or reminds me of Dylan Thomas, my instinct for some reason is also to say “Dylanesque,” rather than “Thomasesque.”

Mr Wibble said...

The first thing that came to my mind was Bob.

Amexpat said...

Poor old Dylan Thomas, victim of a literary name-jacking.

I believe the original idea for the name change came from Gunsmoke's Matt Dillon. The change to "Dylan" came later. It was a more exotic spelling and also referenced the poet.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Yes, Bob Dylan in shorts has happened. But the beach chairs make that wearing of shorts acceptable, right?

Unknown said...

Thomasian also taken.

Ann Althouse said...

"I have got to think that Bob Dylan has to be aware of Althouse's fandom. He really ought to get on his jet and just show up at Meadehouse some day."

The funny thing is, we don't answer the door.

tcrosse said...

I’m interested in the idea of songs magically writing themselves.

It worked for Mozart, but that was, like, a hundred years ago.

tcrosse said...

As regards hi-heel sneakers and wig-hats:
Dylanesque fashion tips from 1964

Diamondhead said...

Tight Connection to my Heart/Has Anybody Seen My Love (from Empire Burlesque - musically not a very Dylanesque album)
Tombstone Blues
Highwater

I'm stumped on the 5th one though. Sounds like something from the Basement Tapes

Laslo Spatula said...

Bob Dylan Robot 3000 says:

A human writer of song attempts to put meaning into the formatting of words, often limiting optimal word choice in preference for the audible pleasantries of rhyme unrelated to perceptual meaning. The quantization of syllables in regard to rhythm also artificially restrains precise word selection.

The imprecision of this process creates the simulation of uniquity to the human listener. Note that even the word ‘uniquity’ is a question of formatting perception, in that it is a word only recognized by the Merriam-Webster database.

Often, the effectiveness of this song-based wordplay is at least partially reliant on songwriter vocalization. For example: a nasal sneering quality or a British accent can influence how the human listener evaluates the meaning, assesses rhyme satisfaction and assigns weight to its value.

After the words have been sufficiently limited and quantized they can be aligned to music, generally in a 4/4 rhythm of moderate tempo. The result can then be rendered in a series of zeroes and ones for access by human listeners.

Different humans will have different emotional responses to a particular series of zeroes and ones; this is due to defect in the basic human unit, and not able to be encoded properly as algorithm.

Example: Texas > Taxes > Facts Is.

I am Laslo.

Mark O said...

I went to a party.
I was feeling kinda bored,
So I jumped in the toilet and I pulled the cord.
The crowd all applauded as I went down the tube.
I waived and saluted.
I didn't want to be rude.
They weren't offended.

PM said...

Many of Dylan's lyrics were an aural version of Dali's paintings.

Ice Nine said...

>> Ann Althouse said...Shouldn't it be "Beatleseque"?
How do you pronounce your word, BEET-lesk? My spelling gets you to BEET-ulls-esk, which is what you want.<<

In point of fact, your spelling gets us to BEET-ulls-eck, which is not what you want.

Amexpat said...

@Laslo: Good stuff! What's your day job? Hope your talent is being used to good effect. It'd be a shame if you were stuck working a boring job with a blue-haired girl.

Big Mike said...

The funny thing is, we don't answer the door.

So get yourself one of those new doorbells with the camera and WiFi connection. You hear the doorbell ring, you check your iPhone, it’s Bob Dylan!!! He’s stopping by to meet with his biggest fan in the blogosphere. Tell me you wouldn’t run screaming to the door.

alanc709 said...

Didn't see if anyone else commented this, but "the man in shorts" in the final pic was Joan Baez.

bagoh20 said...

Hey man, Dylan is too uptight to wear shorts. He's afraid to go truckin down the street and let the foxy chicks see those lily white establishment legs.

Ann Althouse said...

"Shouldn't it be "Beatleseque"?"

Sorry, I spelled my own purportedly superior spelling wrong!

Beatlesesque.

Ann Althouse said...

"So get yourself one of those new doorbells with the camera and WiFi connection. You hear the doorbell ring, you check your iPhone, it’s Bob Dylan!!! He’s stopping by to meet with his biggest fan in the blogosphere. Tell me you wouldn’t run screaming to the door."

Yeah, I need to do that, just so I can always check to see if it's Bob Dylan. Don't want to miss him when he finally stops by.

tcrosse said...

Don't want to miss him when he finally stops by.

I'm sure he'd call first.

bagoh20 said...

I bet Ann has a big brass bed that she's been polishing since the sixties.

sykes.1 said...

Not Dylan Thomas?!

Earnest Prole said...

For those too lazy to click, Left Bank of the Charles posted a photo of Dylan in shorts upthread. I think it was taken at a pool at Newport in 1965. It doesn’t violate the No Shorts policy because you can hardly swim in pants. Here’s another photo around the same time.

BUMBLE BEE said...

OH! You must mean Dylan Thomas. The guy Bobby is riffing on.

mikee said...

Bob Dylan, 1991, on Disney's For the Children Pediatric AIDS benefit, sang "This Old Man Goes Rolling Home." Will change your mind about the man, believe you me.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xyrq38g7wG0

So successful a song it was, you can find it repackaged in the newer 2009 benefit album:
https://www.amazon.com/This-Old-Man/dp/B00JVP1DY2

Paul McCartney's "Mary Had A Little Lamb" from the same album is also nice, but "Itsy Bitsy Spider" by Little Richard stole the show, in my opinion.

Earnest Prole said...

Will change your mind about the man, believe you me.

His Froggie Went a Courtin' is also superlative.

tcrosse said...

His Froggie Went a Courtin' is also superlative.

Burl Ives had a hit with this. It was Burlesque.

Kirk Parker said...


"I'm sure he'd call first."

Pretty sure she doesn't answer the phone, either, if it's not a number she recognizes.

Caedmon said...

His Froggie Went A-Courting is magnificent:

You'll need my Uncle Rat's consent uh-huh
Without my Uncle Rat's consent, I wouldn't marry The President.