I may not be a big fan of the Seattle Times editorial board’s prose, but it turns out it’s better than their verse.
“HOW do you solve a problem like Pamela?” reads the Times’ lede on the latest Pam Roach soap opera, apparently thinking they’ve made a clever reference to the iconic song “Maria” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, The Sound of Music.
But they haven’t. Because “Pamela” and “Maria” don’t rhyme. They don’t even share the same meter.
“Maria” is a double or feminine rhyme, with the accent falling on the second to last syllable, whereas “Pamela” is a triple rhyme (or antepenult) with the accent falling on the third to last syllable. To rhyme with “Maria” you’d need a word that mimics its final two syllables, like “Korea” or “diarrhea” or “onomatopoeia.” To rhyme with “Pamela,” you’d need a word that mimics all three syllables, absent the “P.”
Not only doesn’t “Maria” rhyme with “Pamela,” offhand, I can’t think of another word in the English language that does.
And to make matters worse, not only isn’t the Times lede singable as written, nobody but nobody refers to Pam Roach as Pamela. So this supposedly clever reference fails on two fronts. (Not to mention the fact that 95% of non-gay-male readers under the age of 40 probably aren’t even familiar enough with the song to get a properly made reference in the first place.)
Fail, fail, fail.
And even as a fail, the Times’ reference is unoriginal. Indeed, I castigated Newsweek on similar lines just a couple months ago, for attempting to force “Sarah” into the same lyric in a feeble cover headline.
Of course, it is possible to make this lyrical reference work, as I did in a headline not too long ago. My secret? Having the discipline to only make the allusion where it fits.
So my advice to the Times’ editorialists is to leave the rhyming verse to the experts, and stick to… well… I’d prefer they leave the editorializing to experts as well, but I suppose we can’t have everything.