Wednesday March 15, 2006


Here's a story about an odd vocal artform from Monday's episode of the NPR show Day to Day.  It's called "eephing" and it' to describe.  Kind of like scat meets beatbox, except with more banjo.  Definitely check out the sidebar samples, including a number called "Yakety Eeeph" that you may recognizes as that song from Benny Hill.

I spent much of the time I was listening to the story on the radio trying to figure out how the name of this musical style would be spelled.  The web version of the story says it has several spellings, including eephing, eefing, eeephing, and eeefing.  That suggests to me that the spelling is actually generated by the regular expression e+{f|ph}ing.  Is that right?  Well, my only tool is a hammer, and this is how I swing it:

eephing:  197 ghits
eeephing:  1 ghit
eeeephing:  0 ghits
eeeephing:  0 ghits

eefing:  466 ghits
eeefing:  44 ghits
eeeefing:  7 ghits
eeeeefing:  0 ghits

Either of the two major variants (with f or with ph) seems plausible to me—I certainly can't think of any other way they should be pronounced—but it strikes me as incorrect, somehow, to spell an English verb eef or eeph.  I supposed it fits the unstated orthographic minimality rule for English that says non-function words must be spelled with three or more letters.  Consider, for example, inn the noun vs. in the preposition, foe rather than fo, odd instead of od, and so forth (there are exceptions, though).  Though eef/eeph doesn't run afoul of this rule, I still want the vowel to be spelled differently.  If I had to pick, I think I'd go with the Latinate oephing or the inexplicably Gaelic aoifing instead.

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I heard this piece too. Totally freaky noisemaking.

I prefer eephing because otherwise it reminds me too much of effing, which is something else entirely. Nonetheless, the vowel doesn't bother me - eel, anyone?

Posted by: polyglot conspiracy at Mar 15, 2006 2:32:14 PM

Ooh, I amend. It bothers me when it starts a sentence and therefore one E is capitalized, as in your subject line.

Posted by: polyglot conspiracy at Mar 15, 2006 2:32:50 PM

It's really hard to read aoifing as anything other than an oddly-inflected Japanese borrowing.

Posted by: Shreyas at Mar 15, 2006 3:05:18 PM

What's wrong with eaphing?

Posted by: includedmiddle at Mar 15, 2006 10:14:42 PM

Eephing, no matter how it's spelt, sounds like some sort of obscure obscenity in English, which in turn reminds me of Mr. Tulip from Terry Pratchett's "The Truth".

Posted by: Pete Bleackley at Mar 16, 2006 8:25:18 AM

Why do you prefer "ph"? It's not Greek, and "eefing" has more ghits. Do you write "ooph" or "arph"?

Posted by: KCinDC at Mar 18, 2006 7:53:49 AM

First I find traces of Neil online, and now traces of Shreyas. This "internet" thingum is much smaller than I imagined.

Posted by: Wimbrel at Mar 18, 2006 11:13:16 AM

And, at the risk of seeming foolhardy by posting twice in a row, I have to remind KCinDC that the onomatopoeic "oomph" is indeed preferentially spelled with a ph.

Posted by: Wimbrel at Mar 18, 2006 3:29:52 PM