Oh I Just Can't Wait to See King
Why is the advertising slogan 'I just can't wait to see King' so inferior in its text-setting to the original 'I just can't wait to be king'? Is it merely because we are accustomed to the latter?
Both are set to the same musical rhythm. But clearly, this rhythm suits the original lyric better than the slogan. Is this distinction due to the difference in phonemes -- is /b/ better suited to the scotch snap rhythm than /s/ ? or is therea lexically determined prosodic difference -- does 'be' always scan differently from 'see'?
I do not think thedistinction depends on the phonemes involved. Any monosyllabic content-word verb will in this position sound equally awkward -- I tried 'buy' and 'free'.
It must be, then, that 'be', alone among monosyllabic verbs, has a different sort of stress from the others. Specifically, it seems to have the same sort of stress as a monosyllabic prefix such as 're-', or at least a similar sort of stress. If an invented verb such as 'to re-king' (perhaps, 'to become king again') were inserted in the proper place, the rhythm would be much improved and strongly resemble that of the original lyric:
"Oh I just can't wait to re-king"
What is the difference in the stress-pattern of 'to be king' and 'to see king'? For we may take the difference in prosodic felicity between the slogan and the original lyric as evidence of such a difference.
Putting aside theoretical considerations and consulting the ear, we can sense instinctively that in 'to see king' 'see' has a higher degree of stress than 'be' in 'to be king'. 'See', with its strong stress, seems to resist being set in a weaker part of the beat than 'to'. The rhythm would improve if we changed the rhythm of "wait to see" from quarter, sixteenth, dotted eighth, to dotted eighth, sixteenth, quarter, because then 'see' would be in a metrically stronger position in the measure than 'to'. (I mean that the rhythm would improve in its relation to the prosody of the words -- though the loss of the scotch snap rhythm seems to lessen the effectiveness of the passage considered from a purely musical point of view.) That the setting fo the line with 'be' would not similarly improve after such alteration suggests that 'be' has a lesser degree of stress than 'see'.
If we were to arrange the monosyllables in order of degree of stress, we would probably come up with the following: 'be', 're-','see'-- with 're-' occupying perhaps an intermediate position, if it is not indeed identical to 'be'.
How to account theoretically for this observed distinction? The best way might be to say that 'see' and 'king' are separate prosodic words, each with its own full stress; while 'be' leans enclitically on the following word, and has no prosodic independence in this context. I do not know if anyone has yet observed that 'be' is incorporated into the following prosodic word -- if so this observation might constitute evidence for that claim.
A final problem remains with 're-'. Should we regard this prefix as a full prosodic word like 'see', or as an enclitic like 'be'? or if we grant it an intermediate status, how can that be captured in the framework outlined in the preceding paragraph?
Relying on my ear alone, I cannot tell whether 'be' and 're-' should be placed in the same category. Sometimes I think I hear a distinction, and sometimes I don't. It might be easier if we could compare 'to re-king' with a word of similar sound but consisting of only one morpheme. Allowing the old Wade-Giles transcription of the capital of China to stand for a moment as a verb (perhaps with the meaning 'to indulge in chinoiseries'), we have:
"Oh i just can't wait to Peking"
This seems intermediate in felicity between 'be king' and 're-king', producing the ranking 'be', 're-', 'Peking', 'see'. Sometimes these distinctions seem clear to me; at other times, they transmute themselves, chimaera-like, into shiftingforms thatresist apprehension, orvanish entirely in a phonological fog. Since I cannot tell whether I have created too many levels int he ranking, or where to draw the lines, I will just stop and hope someone else figures it out.