Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


EACH LANGUAGE has a cadence. English, for example, has its noble example of classic iambic pentameter—five beats to a line, unstressed syllables followed by stressed ones. Consider Marlowe’s line from Doctor Faustus: “Is THIS the FACE that LAUNCHED a THOUsand SHIPS?”

Phone Numbers for Americans. This matter of linguistic cadence came to mind recently during a tech support call. The tech rep spoke utterly unaccented American English until he offered me a phone number. The number, 800 XXX-XXXX, was offered as “800X XX XX XX.”

This sounded well nigh incomprehensible to me, though it may be a phone number’s cadence elsewhere in the world. Alas, I had to ask him to repeat it a couple times before I got it right. Each time, he repeated it with the same cadence.

A test: Recite a familiar U.S. phone number with the XXXX XX XX XX cadence and see if it doesn’t sound odd.

I suspect, of course, that our familiar XXX XXX XXXX might be off-putting elsewhere in the world. I know, for example, Tokyo’s Kabuki-za Theatre has the phone number +81 3-3545-6800. In Tokyo, with the 81 country code and 3 area code unnecessary, I would think 354-56800 and wonder about that extra digit. (They added it to XXX XXXX only relatively recently.)

Other Familiar Cadences. This matter of cadence was briefly addressed here at SimanaitisSays in “Cigar Rap and Old-Time Radio.” How about these familiar cadences: DAA-de-DA-DA, DA-DA-DA DAAA, or DA-de-de-de-DA-DA DA-DA.

Mickey and Grace. The Mickey Mouse March was the opening theme for The Mickey Mouse Club TV show, broadcast in the U.S. from 1955 to 1959. It reappeared intermittently to 1996 and has been on social media since 2017.

The Christian hymn Amazing Grace was published in 1779, with words written by English poet/Anglican clergyman John Newton.

Page 53 in Olney Hymns, 1779, with the verses that would become known as Amazing Grace. Image from U.S. Library of Congress.

Of course, don’t be put off by the medial “s” that resembles the letter “f.”

Curiously enough, the cadences of Amazing Grace and The Mickey Mouse March are identical. Try singing one of them with the lyrics of the other:

“Who’s the leader of the club/That’s made for you and me/M-I-C/K-E-Y/M-O-U-S-E.”

“Amazing Grace! (how sweet the sound)/That sav’d a wretch like me!/I once was lost,/But now am found,/Was blind, but now I see.”

While you sing, I’ll be calling XXXX XX XX XX. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019


  1. Thom Cannell
    July 9, 2019

    Theme from Gilligan’s Island as well

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