There’s news today that a new comet is due to make it’s appearance in our night sky sometime later this year and that it will be as bright or brighter than the moon.
Time for poets and song writers to get busy with new works honoring this spectacular event. The only problem is that the comet, discovered by a pair of Russian scientists, has been named ISON, an acronym for the International Scientific Optical Network through whose telescope the comet was first noticed.
ISON is a name hardly likely to inspire a poet or songwriter or bring a muse tip-toeing through the tulips with images a-plenty. I respect the scientific community, but jeez. The only rhymes that came immediately to mind for “ISON” were “bison” and “Tyson,” (chickens or Mike). I’m hard put to come up with a poem that uses either one.
The moon has long been an inspiration for songs and poems and it’s an easy rhymer. Moon, June, tune, soon, lagoon…The song titles alone are enough to inspire. A quick search brought a nice trip down memory lane. But as I was reading through them, I couldn’t help trying to insert ISON instead of moon, just to see how it sounded.
“ISON River,” “ISON Dance,” “Fly Me to the ISON,” “Surfer ISON,” ”Blue ISON,” “ISONlight Serenade,” “ISONglow,” “ISON over Miami,” “How High the ISON,” (sing it Ella!) “When My Blue ISON Turns to Gold Again,” “Only a Paper ISON,” and so on. I did come up with what poets call a near-rhyme with “Bad ISON Rising,” but this hardly made up for the rest.
I also thought about Christopher Cross’s song with my favorite line changed to “When you get caught between the ISON and New York City…” It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.
While looking for various songs, I did run across a little piece of lore that has nothing to do the scientists. I found an oldie, a really oldie, titled, “Uponst Thy Glorious Moon I Hath Gazed,” attributed to one Sir Thomas of Peeping. Remember the story of Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom? Since I could find no other reference to either the song or the Sir, I think somebody’s having a joke on us here. Pranked! Oh, you Internet kidders, you.
What we name things is important, and I have a particular axe to grind (moi? with an axe to grind?) about acronyms. All those capital letters in a row look like a wall. We know better than to use all caps in our e-mails because it looks like shouting. The caps of acronyms always look like a barrier to me.
When I was a technical editor, we included the full title of something the first time it was used and acronyms thereafter. The material I worked on had so many acronyms, we had entire appendixes dedicated to them at the end of some documents. If a reader missed that first reference, nothing that came later made much sense.
Many folks in the tech world believe that “If we use them, they will understand,” we being the “they,” but many of us definitely do not understand. For those of us who love words and know about prefixes and suffixes and roots and can use that knowledge to figure out the definition of most any word we come across, acronyms are barriers. Alone, they mean nothing.
I recall the first time I was instructed to “use WYSIWYG.” English major that I am, I thought the other person was referring to a character from a Dickens novel. Same with PDF except that all I could think of was PDQ and that wasn’t right. FTP finally made sense after I hounded the person who was supposed to be helping me until he told me what the letters meant.
I’ve driven more than one tech support person nuts with my inability to “just use it and don’t worry about what it means.” Ha.
My wish is that the scientists on the International Scientific Optical Network go out for a few beers, keep their eyes out for the muse (she’ll be the one in the glittery pale blue gown), and come up with something poetic for that comet we’ll be seeing come November. There’s got to be something better than ISON. In all caps.
I’ve met enough scientists to know this is not impossible. And no, I’m not going to say anymore about that. Look for it in my memoir.