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Song Parodies -> "The Major-General's Parody's A Challenge Steep And Ominous"

Original Song Title:

"I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major-General"

Original Performer:

Gilbert & Sullivan

Parody Song Title:

"The Major-General's Parody's A Challenge Steep And Ominous"

Parody Written by:

Tommy Turtle

The Lyrics

The Major-General's parody's a challenge steep and ominous
Some first-time tries by noobie guys I'd call almost abominous
While others, merry, popping cherry, pen pro puns phenomenous
Though song is long, and gauntlet, strong, not 'nonymous; aplombinous!

You note word-mangling? Such fun tangling syntax, words, ridiculous!
Though still adhere to structure, clear; it's here: must be meticulous
My reader: will he think this silly? Tasty, 'haps, deliciulous?

[pause, then continue, speaking]
Go out on a limb, take chances -- Got it!

[resume singing]
Have shell or skin that's tough, not thin! No place for the pelliculous!

It's also fun in doing one to add a little dialog
Or you might see that even three makes sing-along fun trialog
Be sure to chart and keep apart your versions, maybe by a log

Though lack: no crime, internal rhyme is almost a requirement   [1]
With care, write line, or else you'll find yourself: predica-dire-ment
Takes just a bit of clever wit; shows song for standards, higher, meant
Your readers dote; comes time to vote: Fives in; win their admirement

In short, I always do mine "clean"; it's 4-4-3-4-2 line scheme
These two lines briefly summarize; without them, you will bummerize

Some think it cruel, the Turtle's rule: Though OS lines repeat a bit,
Methinks that ev'ry one should vary; else, to moi, you cheat a bit
TT too tough? Think up new stuff, or else, you ain't completed it
It's that much more of laughs to score; be proud when all have feted it!

Let's take the time to talk of rhyme, whose pattern here is often missed
(No, not internal, but tri-stern-al,) causing coughs of scoff, and dissed   [2]
Not masculine or feminine, count third from end, spin off a twist   [LDBPF #1]

[pause, then continue, speaking]
Mandatory three-syllable rhyme? Got it!

[resume singing]
If this, ignore, no points you score, in fact, your name is doffed: my list!   [3]

To scansion, pay attansion, 'k? -- A very strict parameter
Quite standard, goes, and smoothly flows: iambical octameter   [LDBPF #2]
It's "quid pro prose" (that's "prose for pros"), and not for any amate(u)r

That bracket thingy: [speak-y] [sing-y]: something else, "forget-you-not"
(Bad pun on flower; silly, sour; nonetheless, I'll bet, you: not!)
If do it proper, new show-stopper! Raving crowd will get you hot!
But if neglectful, song's defectful; no one "wowed"; they'll let you rot

In short, if writing's stylish, the parody's beguile-ish
The readers will be smile-ish; those Fives, you wish? Worthwhile-ish!

The manly Major-General Stanley's arrogant and boisterous
Much braggadocio, does he so show; positively roisterous
Our parody can be as he: so pompous that they'd cloister us
But one complained this writer's vain; in vain, his plaint's prepoisterous   [4]

Forget that freak's fragility and serious senility
Such sad susceptibility to verbal volatility
There's clearly a debility of lacking in civility

[pause, then continue, speaking]
Is it worth arguing with Unabombers? ... Got it!

[resume singing]
Dude don't display docility; to reason is futility

There seems no feasibility of teaching him nobility
With lack of am'iability, shows upward immobility
I'd say the probability is zip for viability

So, show us your ability, but need not show humility
A feverish facility has Stanley, for virility
Adept, adroit agility with words, much mall'eability
We love your capability and varied versatility

In short, adaptability has high applicability
For fans of flexibility, song's rife with possibility!

[a female reader approaches the Tutor Turtle, bats her eyelashes, and asks:]
Can you do that again, while slowly stripping out of your shell?

[The Turtle winks at the reader, and says:]
Plastron denude-ato, car-apace!

[repeat 3rd verse, ("The manly Major-General...")
at a speed even faster than the original tempo,
and without the pause or spoken part, as the turtle strips.]

[1] Most MG aficionados here agree; e. g., per comments by alvin, TJC, and Stuart McArthur at this one.

[2] "tri-stern-al" -- Pretty far-fetched. "stern" = the back end of a boat. So, "tri-stern-al" = rhyme on the third syllable from the stern (end) of the line.... (sorry)

[3] "Doff" *does* have a meaning other than in regard to one's hat: "to throw off; get rid of:" ("you're thrown off my list.")

[4] Despite a disclaimer in the intro expressly stating that the parody satirized the Major-General himself, specifically, his self-aggrandizement, a hitherto-unknown commenter named "Blarney" accused this writer of the same flaw at the parody linked in the lyrics and and here, obviously not having read the intro, nor knowing TOS character. (sigh)

[LDBPF] (no relation to LGBT or LPGA, though TT always gets the latter two mixed up ;)

Don't read this. *Really*. -- unless, of course, you'd like to enhance your parody skills.

Boring as it sounds, it *really* does help parodists, songwriters, poets, etc. to study prosody (and to look up that work, :wink:).
For those not yet familiar with the terms, a "masculine" rhyme is one in which the last syllable of a line rhymes with the last syllable of the corresponding line. (Not necessarily the next line, of course.):

It's full, the moon
You're here with me
So nice to spoon
And so close, be

A "feminine" rhyme is one in which the second-to-last syllable of a line rhymes with the second-to-last of its mate:

Three once was a man from Nantucket ...

All of the main lines here - 1, 2, and 5 in a limerick - rhyme on "tuck" (second-to-last), rather than on "-et". Easy, eh? (And the first example that popped into a twisted mind.)
... Bonus points if you spotted that lines 3 and 4 in *this* limerick use *masculine* rhymes ("He said, with a grin..."), although the one about the lady named Alice stays "feminine" (so to speak, heh!) all the way through.

Maj-Gen (hereinafter referred to as "MG", no relation to Morris Garage or the sports cars they produced under the MG name) uses what has been variously called three-syllable rhyming, or triple rhyming, or (possibly a neologism by TT, can't remember where I heard it, nor can I source it), a "double-feminine" rhyme; i. e., the THIRD syllable from the end rhymes:

phen-OM-en-ous etc.

Per an interesting e-mail discussion with John Jenkins, there are many different names and classifications of rhymes, too many for here. ("Whew!") These above are definitely what Peter Dale*** would call "triple pure rhymes" in that the third-from-end sounds match, and the end and second-from-end are (or sound) identical to each other as well. However, in verse 7, the third-from-ends are all good, but the rest may vary slightly;

often missed
scoff and dissed
off a twist
doff: my list

Dale would call the first two a "Triple pure assonance rhyme", meaning that the vowel sounds in all three syllables match, while the consonants in the last and penultimate (another good word to know, as it saves TT repeaTTedly typing "second-from-last") vary, but overall, still a rhyme.

The second two lines still meet the third-from-end test, but the next sound changes ("a" to "my"), so it's not "pure", to Dale. However, TOS does this, too:

a LOT 'o news

"Lot/pot"- perfect. But the next phoneme (sound) changes form "o" to short "e", and unless en-BR is different from en-US here, "news" doesn't match "-use", because (in USofA, at least), the "s" in "hypotenuse" is "hard" -- like a soft "c" in "introduce", or the "s" in "goose, moose, noose" (Calling Moose Palin....)

This doesn't even fit Dale's "Triple Assonance with Head Rhyme", just as TT's last two in the example don't, either. In plain English, the "head", or first, of our 3-syl group, is a perfect match, but the next vowel sounds don't match. (o vs. e). But hey, it's Gilbert and Sullivan's call, and their rule was: the third from the end must rhyme/match perfectly; the others: maybe, maybe not.

There doesn't seem to be anything in Dale's classification that fits this, and as JJ and TT sort of concluded, there are as many names and definitions for rhyme classes as there are definers. Perhaps that's why TT maybe just hallucinated "double-feminine" to mean: must rhyme on third from end (vs. second from end in "normal" feminine) rhymes; others may or may not, just as in TOS.

It's not important to learn all these names and definitions. ("Whew" squared). What *is* important is to recognize the *pattern*, and to follow it. Unfortunately, many MGs posted here don't.

Since pattern recognition is so helpful -- nay, critical - to parodists, being able to hang a tag on each pattern can help with both recognition and recollection. Really, every poet/songwriter/parodist should know the very basics here:

Verse (as opposed to prose) consists of metrical units called "feet". A "foot" is two or three, and sometimes, four, syllables, with at least one of them being stressed. Usually, but not always, one or more are unstressed. (You could have two stressed syllables in a foot.)

Not going into every possible foot here. ("Whew" cubed). However, the "iamb" (no relation to a US brand of pet food) is so common, it's worth discussing, especially since MG uses it. An iamb is simply an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one, which completes one foot. Like so:

(i AM) (the VER-) (-y MOD-) (-el OF) (a MOD-) (-ern MAJ-) (-or GEN-) (er-AL).

Yes, "Of" isn't a strong stress, and it's not uncommon for the last syllable to be not too strongly stressed, either. But you see this overall pattern throughout the song; hence, throughout (properly-done) parodies.

And there are eight of these "feet" to a line, so the meter - what is usually referred to at this site as "pacing" -- is oct-, meaning eight, as in octopus or Octomom or October (the eighth month in the Roman calendar, which starts with March, spring being the start of a new year for planting, which really makes much more sense than starting in the middle of the friggin' frigid winter), giving us "octameter"; hence, "iambic octameter". Perhaps that anchor will help the subconscious come up with appropriate subs, or help you to tweak a clever sub that doesn't scan correctly into one that does.


Shakespeare, among others, was noted for his iambic penta(5)meter, a classic form in classic verse, as in probably the most classic line in all of Shakespeare:

(to BE) (or NOT) (to BE); (that IS) (the QUES-) (tion)

Willy sometimes varied slightly, either on the stresses within the line, or, as he did here, adding an unstressed syllable at the end (or sometimes, within.). But the majority of lines, in "Hamlet" or in his other iambic pentameter works, fit the pattern, sometimes across two or more lines to complete a sentence.


While listening to Dusty Springfield's song, either on the radio or in his pea-brain, TT realized that the main lines (1, 2, and 4 in the stanzas) were only an unstressed syllable or two longer than Bill S.'s iambic pentameter. (Strange brain, to connect the two. No argument from this end.)

(i DON"T) (know WHAT) (it IS) (that MAKES) (me LOVE) (you so) .... only one teensy, unstressed syllable longer than the opening line of "Hamlet". Hence, Dusty becomes Hamlet:

(i DON"T) (know WHAT) (it IS) (that MAKES) (me LOVE) (you so)
(to BE) (or NOT) (to BE); (that IS) (the (QUES-) (tion here)
(to KILL) (mySELF) (right NOW) (or FACE) (the FACTS) (i fear)

Without the markup:

To be, or not to be; that is the question here
To kill myself right now, or face the facts I fear

Which, with a few more lines, was tossed over to a certain someone with double-Master's in Music and Education -- quite the helpful addition to the aptiturtletudes, no?. Who punted it back, etc., and eventually, it came out like this.

Then, once the concept and parallels were established, on to "Romeo and Juliet", Caesar, and MacBeth; thence, to other classical authors, even those who wrote in different meters. Homer wrote in iambic hexameter, which didn't matter, 'cuz he wrote in Greek, which TT doesn't speak. (It's all Greek to me.) Dante wrote in Italian, but the translations seem to use both iambs and anapests, etc. So Dante was Dustied off in our own way. All of the above are on the FG/TT home page, though TT's done a number of non-classic Dustys on his own. too.

(Private message to John Jenkins only, lest the subject become even more confusing)

Psst! John, the term "triple rhyme" takes on an *entirely different* meaning at this scholarly dissection and translation of Dante's "Inferno", to-wit: *verses* of three lines each, in which the *middle* line of each verse rhymes with the first and third line of the following verse -- whose middle line rhymes with the first and third of yet the next verse, etc. Nothing about rhyming three syls from the end. As said above, as many definitions as definers, eh? Interesting....

If the last third of the parody seemed overly focused on one comment, there was a larger point: That while not required, of course, *any* parody can satirize not just the song, but also the character(s) *in* the song. Might be useful some day...

*** "An Introduction To Rhyme", © 1998 Peter Dale. All else © 2010 Tommy Turtle. All rights reserved. E-mail:

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Voting Results

Pacing: 5.0
How Funny: 4.8
Overall Rating: 4.8

Total Votes: 10

Voting Breakdown

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    Pacing How Funny Overall Rating
 1   0
 2   0
 3   0
 4   0
 5   10

User Comments

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Old Man Ribber - September 07, 2010 - Report this comment
TT - Love your website! As for the's just wretched excess to do this one more than! Climbing Mt. Everest is one thing...building a vacation home there is a different matter! But seriously, awe-inspiring as usual. Keep carrying the ball and scoring the touchdowns while I block and deflect the one bomber. ;D
TJC - September 07, 2010 - Report this comment
Unbelievable prowess on display here TT--no mere 'rhyming savant' could possibly concoct the totality of your presentation; so many witty references and byplays and interesting and informative footnotes ... In summary, iamb in awe and must get myself to a punnery! Any ewe can recommend--EewSeaShellA**, perhaps?
Peter Andersson - September 07, 2010 - Report this comment
I fear the day you take it upon yourself to read, examine, figure out, write songs about and in footnoted detail explain the complete works of Nostradamus to us mere mortals in the rest of the world...
Steve K. - September 07, 2010 - Report this comment
To parody this song, you'll have to be a flaming masochist (to which I plead guilty), But after reading yours I think that everyone will get the gist.
TJC - September 07, 2010 - Report this comment
PS: LOL OMR's feigned 'Everest pique'!
Patrick - September 07, 2010 - Report this comment
I saw this play once at the Lyric Opera in Kansas City. For an old worn-out and a bit senile soldier, he sure had a bevy of beautiful daughters. Must have spent his career making love, not war. I used to know someone who could recite the original at full speed. Have you ever done "One Week" by Bare Naked Ladies (a misnomer if there ever was one)? Once in a while I'll think about "American Pie", but "Major General" will remain forever beyond my talents. I once offered a challenge to someone to do Bob Dylan's "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts". No one was foolhardy enough to take that one one. I could never quite follow the story myself. TT, you certainly have "a way" with words. Folks who hear me sing say "Away with your words".
Fiddlegirl - September 07, 2010 - Report this comment
You are the King... This may be the definitive how-to for MG parodies! Enthusiastic 5's. :)
AFW - September 07, 2010 - Report this comment
A major accomplishment in word weaving, Generally speaking..
Tommy Turtle - September 07, 2010 - Report this comment
Old Man Ribber: If it's "wretched excess", I'm afraid I have some bad news for you, my friend ... well, no need to spill it now; will "break it to you gently" some time soon. ;) ... anyway, lots of hikers and climbers climb repeatedly for the exercise, and *something* needs to be done to stop this brain from rotting much further ... Thanks for v/c!

TJC: EweA**Sea is supposedly better, but the affirmative-discrimination policy may work against ewe. (You're the white sheep of the family! heh!) ... Iamb in agreement re: OMR's piquery, but as *ewe* know, he's going to become even more, er, "piquant" very soon. ;-) ... gOphelia some nuns, and watch out for the rulers!

Peter Andersson: Breathe easily, my friend. Never read Nostradamus; don't intend to. Too gloomy... :-D   Thanks for v/c!

Steve K.: GREAT title switch and concept! Looking forward to it! ... But this being his, uh, sixth spin on it, and *not* the last, I suppose TT must indeed be a masochist. (Apparently a switch-hitter, according to this song: [reader discretion advised] ...
but keep in mind that he's also written a couple dozen about boffing sheep, despite never actually having done so...
  Nice to see you here -- it's been a while -- and, uh, apparently you've never seen that you were plugged and credited for role-modeling TOS at TT's noob try, him not having ever seen the show nor heard the song:
(the other four spins are in the links above -- no credit after the first one, sorry! :-D ) Thanks for v/c!

Patrick: DK BNL -- at a blind date once, said date asked, "Do you like BareNaked Ladies"? TT: "Uh, generally, yes; depends on what they look like." (Date went downhill from there.)   I have no doubt that you could do APie or this one if you put your mind to it. I DK the Dylan song, but might check it out, if it's truly never been done.... and turtles can't sing very well, either. ;-) Thanks for v/c!

Fiddlegirl: Hmm, having co-written 91 parodies together, I guess that makes FG the Queen. ;) :) :)   Enthusiastic thanks! :-D

AFW: LOL - good one, and thanks!
Patrick - September 08, 2010 - Report this comment
American Pie runs about 7 minutes in the unabridged album version. "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts" is around 8:30. At least no one around here will ever take on Tiny Tim's rendition of "Eve of Destruction". That one got me from Kansas City to Lawrence on the Kansas Turnpike. 25:49 or thereabouts. I pity the engineer. Maybe I'll look at MacArthur Park. Haven't heard that one in a few decades. Radio DJ's used to keep it around in case they had to use the restroom while they were on the air.
Tommy Turtle - September 08, 2010 - Report this comment
Patrick: IIUC, it's AmPie that they used for potty-stopping, and I thought that it was more than eight minutes. Unabridged versions @ YouTube run between 8-9 minutes.

I'd never do a 25-minute song. Think how long the footnotes would be! ;-D

TT "MacArthur Park" - (the intro gives the context; the subject of the tribute hasn't been here in a very long time, but privately told TT he'd "return with a vengeance' some day):
Christie Marie M - September 08, 2010 - Report this comment
Professor Turtle, great parody as always! About those "pedantic" footnotes, since I still have lots to learn with pacing parodies, I'm going to have to refer to your footnotes again and again as well as your pacing guide. Now I can learn how to spoof MG someday. Right now I'm still working on 3 parodies (one of which is Edmund Fitzgerald, the Big 7). I'm also working on parodies to enter into those Aritstry contests as well. Anyways, another set of Major General 5's for this one. You're really a master of pacing the hardest OS' in the site.
Tommy Turtle - September 08, 2010 - Report this comment
Christie Marie M: So nice to know that *someone* actually finds the footnotes useful! But I hope you haven't made others mad at you, like "Don't encourage him!" LOL -- kidding! :-D

I am so looking forward to your TWOTEF, and to the day you tackle Major-General. Since I'm not always here, can you give me an email heads-up when you submit them? Thanks for v/c!
Patrick - September 09, 2010 - Report this comment
If you spoofed Tiny Tim's "Eve of Destruction", the song would get me to Lawrence and the footnotes would carry me to the Colorado border.

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