Military industrial complex lays Pommy lexicographer low

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Tue May 1 13:14:34 UTC 2001

One the things that I think we know about songs and phonologies is
that tunes seldom break contours which are important signals in the
language. "Yonder" cannot be adverbial unless there is some falling
tone ("juncture") on the preceding element. In the song, the notes
for "wild" "blue" "yon" and "der" steadily rise. I suspect a falling
contour on "blue" would be necessary for adverbial interpretation.

There are some studies of this. (I sure as hell, didn't make it up.)
Who remembers where?


>This song has lexicographical interest.  "Wild blue yonder" is parsed by many
>people as a noun phrase and used in conversation that way.  ("I lost my
>wallet.  I guess it's gone into the wild blue yonder.")  I don't have any
>citations for this, nor can I prove that the original intent of the first line
>was that "blue" was the noun and "yonder" was an adverb ("wild blue, yonder").
>I certainly never parsed it as an adverb as a child or when I was in the USAF.
>However, I grew up in the south where we did in fact use "yonder" as an
>adverb.  (Not as an adjective, though.)
>(I learned this from Michael Barr.)
>--Charles Wells
>>U.S. Air Force Anthem
>>(Off We Go)
>>Off we go into the wild blue yonder
>>Climbing high into the sun;
>>Here they come zooming to meet our thunder,
>>At'em boys, giv'er the gun!
>>Down we dive spouting our flames from under,
>>Off with one hell-uv-a roar!
>>We live in fame or go down in flame,
>>Nothing'll stop the US Air Force!
>Charles Wells,
>Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, Case Western Reserve University
>Affiliate Scholar, Oberlin College
>Send all mail to:
>105 South Cedar St., Oberlin, Ohio 44074, USA.
>email: charles at
>home phone: 440 774 1926.
>professional website:
>personal website:
>NE Ohio Sacred Harp website:

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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