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Boselli1

JohnBoselli
Dr.Drake
English261
25September2012
djsjdasjdsajWaltzingTowardsObsolescence
GrowingfromitsProtoIndoEuropeanprovenance,thetermwaltzhasenjoyedan
etymologicallyandsociallydemocraticpast,butalsoaratherdimfuture.Waltzenteredthe
printedEnglishlanguageasfaraswecanbehistoricallycertainin1781,inaletterfrom
anobleEnglishmaninFrankfurttohisclergymanbrother(OED,waltzxford).The
Englishman,RichardTwining,wassoastonishedbythedangerouswhirlinghewitnessed
ataMaisonrougeballthat,oninquiry,hefoundthis[movement]wasafavourite
Germandancecalledawaltz(Papers).
ThoughthisEnglishadaptationhaspersistedandgrownintheEnglishlexiconformore
thantwocenturies,itsGermanparenttermismorethansixmillenniaold,rootedintheProto
IndoEuropeanlanguagemaybelocatedasmanyastenandasafewassixmillenniaagointhe
ProtoIndoEuropeanbase*wel,meaningtoturnorrevolve.ThelaterProtoGermanic
languageretainstThisestemsmeaningintheevolvedmorphemeismaintainedinthelater
ProtoGermanic*walt,whichsimilartotheLatinvolvere,anotherPIEderivativeresembles
otherPIEderivatives,suchastheLatinvolvere.ThroughthecycleofBarbarianlabarbarian
languagecontactsplitandregionalisolation,ProtoGermanicevolvedintotheNorth,West,and
EastGermanicdialects.SometimeduringthethirdtofifthcenturiesA.D.,whatwenowreferto
astheHighGermanconsonantshiftbegantookrootamongthesouthernWestGermandialect

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speakers,andspreadnorthward.For*walt,,transforming,amongotherthings,theshift
modifiedthevoicelessplosive<t>ofProtoGermanicintothevoicelessalveolaraffricate<ts>,
henceforthgivingustheOldHighGermanwalzan(Schrijver)FHSDFHSDFHS).
Finally,itistheNewHighGermanformoftheword,walzen,anditsconverted
substantivewaltzthatgiveanameinEnglishtothisdanceperformedtomusicintripletimeby
coupleswho,almostembracingeachother,swingroundandroundinthesamedirectionwith
smoothandevensteps,movingonastheygyrate(OED,waltz).(Oxford).However,thisis
nottosaythatwaltzitselfhadnotundergonesemanticchangesinitsnativeGermanlanguage,
butratherthatthesenarrowingtransitionsoccurredpriortoitsEnglishintroduction(Carner10).
Unfortunately,thisadaptedwaltzwasnotentirelycongruentwithEnglishphonology.
TheGermancombinedvoicedlabiodentalfricative<v>andlongopencentralvowel<>is
unnaturaltoEnglishspeakers,EuropeanorAmerican.Thus,somewhereinitsfirstyears,that
fricative<v>becamethevoicedlabiovelarapproximant<w>,asLordByronnotesinreference
tohis1812poemTheWaltz,cantyouseetheyrevaltzing?Orwaltzing(Iforgetwhich).
GivenitsEnglishnoveltyandpeculiarphonologysound,waltzsoonacquiredafigurative
element.,andasearlyas1802VvisionariessuchasSamuelTaylorColeridgebegantoexploreits
untappedartisticpossibilitiesasearlyasthelateeighteenthcentury.Inaletterfrom1802,(later
publishedin1895),hemusedonanartistically(andeconomically)failedtranslationofFriedrich
SchillersWallenstein:Theghostsof[thebooks]hisdepartedguineasdanceanuglywaltz
roundmyidea.(Oxford).Coleridgesmetaphoricalusagedegenerateswaltzsassociations
withstrikingintimacyintosomethingperverselyinvertedperverseandexclusive.
PerhapsthisinversionmotifcommencedinContinuingtheinversemotif,in1794when,

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unliketheGermanverbwalzen,whichprecededitssubstantivecounterpart,,theEnglishthirteen
yearsafterTwiningsletter,waltzcouldnowdoubleasangainedanotherpartofspeech,
becominganintransitiveverb.,unliketheGermanverbwalzen,whichprecededitsnoun
counterpart.Meaningtodanceawaltztobeaddictedto,orpracticedin,thewaltz,orandto
dancethewaltzinaspecifiedmanner,thenewverbaroselikelyasamatterofconvenience,in
ordertomoreeasilydiscussthistaboocraze,justastodancethewaltzanditsgerund
waltzingmergedinmeaningaround1811(OED,waltz)..thenewverbisanexpected
developmentforthedance,foritsspiritofmoralelasticitychallengedWesternEurope,which
sawtheeroticismasonlyribald.
Perhapsthen,inordertoputthistaboozeitgeistintowords,thisdevelopmentwasa
matterofconvenience,justastodancethewaltzanditsgerundwaltzingareseenas
synonymousamongthearistocracycirca1811.
DespitethewaltzstwohundredyearhistoryinGermany,beginningbawdilyinBavarian
townsandtaverns,whereeverybodydancedwitheverybody,regardlessofclassdistinctions,
thewordssemanticprogressioninEnglishwaslargelymediatedpredominantlybythe
aristocracy.Thetripletimestep,whichreignitedpopularinterestindance,waswhitewashingby
thenobility,seeingitspassionandnotitsribaldry.who,despitebeinginitiallyscandalized,
cametodefensivelywhitewashthesensualelementfromthispopulardanceasearlyasthe
1810s.ThissuspectmoralshiftinEnglandchampionedthewaltzasapromoterofvigorous
health,andtotallydestituteofthecomplainedofattitudesandmovementsusedin[German
andFrench]climates.(Selwyn168)Theagentnounwaltzer,firstwrittenin1811,thus
becameafavorableEnglishtitle.

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Furthermore,JaneAusten,barometerofthelandedgentrysconcerns,inher1816Emma,
placesnotesthewaltzasanaristocraticamongherimaginednobilityinher1816Emma.
However,waltzisnownotonlyasimplesubstantiveandintransitiveverb,butasametonymous
nounaswell.Mrs.Westonwasseated,andbeginninganirresistiblewaltz,whichasthe
OxfordEnglishDictionarynotes,isapieceofmusictoaccompanythisdance,inthesametime
andrhythm.InAustenshands,However,waltzisnownotonlyasimplesubstantiveand
intransitiveverb,butasametonymicousnounaswell.
Wemayalsoconsiderthenecessityofphoneticevolution.Thevoicedlabiodental
fricative<v>andlongopencentralvowel<>pairoftheGermanwaltzisanunnatural
combinationtoEnglishspeakers,EuropeanorAmerican.Thus,somewhereinthetermsearly
historythat<v>becamethevoicedlabiovelarapproximant<w>,asByronnotesinreferenceto
his1812poemTheWaltz,cantyouseetheyrevaltzing?Orwaltzing(Iforgetwhich)
(Oxford).
Peculiarly,Tthroughoutthenextcenturyandahalf,theliteralsemanticuseofthewordis
nearlycemented,withitsfigurativeandcreativeetymologyflourishinginsteadfigurative.
wWaltzflourished,especiallyintheincisive,sociallyconsciousliteratureoftheVictorian
ageandAmericanRealistages.Forliteraryeffect,CharlesDickens,inhis1853BleakHouse,
likenstheellipticalorbitsofpoliticalofficialsaroundtheirleadertothedance:Weare
alwaysrevolvingabouttheLordChancellorandallhissatellites,andequitablywaltzing
ourselvesofftodustydeath,aboutCosts.Thenovelistswarpedhandlingofthequasitransitive
verbformofwaltzingisfarmorebitingthatColeridgesselfmockingtreatment,instead

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associatedingthearistocraticwaltzwithcareless,genteelignorance,afittingmoveforDickens,
everthesocialcritic.sociallyconsciousDickens.
PostDickens,thenewersemanticchangesapplicationsofwaltz(verb,noun,or
otherwise)inBritaingrewincreasinglyobscureandspecialized,asthesemanticterritory
(noun/verbconversions,substantiveembellishments)hadbeennearlychartedtoitslimits.For
one,thetwentiethcenturyscientificcommunity(oftheearlytwentiethcentury(suchasthe
Biometrikajournalin1904)adoptedthemetaphoricalwaltzerasametaphoricalmonikerfora
breedofdomesticatedmousepredisposedtorapid,roundmovements.withthehabitofspeedily
spinninground.Furthermore,a1958issueofBritishVogueestablishedthemetonymous
metonymicrelationshipbetweenageneralcalflengthgarmentandtheshortergownsnecessary
suitableforthesweepinglegmovementsrapidwhirlingofwaltzing((nNightgownswithlace
inwaltzlengthorswirlingtotheankles)(OED,waltz)..Mostpeculiarly,inthe,anew
fairgroundrideappearedinBritishliterature,theWaltzer,describedashavinganappropriate
nameforaningeniousmachine,wherespinningcarsthemselvesspinaboutanundulating
course.
TheAmericanmanipulationsofwaltzarerathercurious,fortheydevelopedcuriously,
generallydivorcedfromthehistoryofEuropeeslongstandingrelationshipanwiththedance
aristocracyanduproaroverthedanceitself.ThespiritofAmericanYankeeingenuitywentto
workonthetransatlanticversionofaGermanEnglishadaptation,whichinitsmigrspiritisa
ratherAmericanword.whatwas,inmanyways,asuitablyAmericanword,beinga
transatlanticversionofaGermanEnglishadaptation.Itisalsonoshockthatthesefreer,more
usesliberalusesveertowardscolloquialismsandslangterms.Forone,inhis1884comic

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picaresqueTheAdventuresofHuckleberryFinnAmericanRealistsatiristMarkTwainused
waltzironicallytoemphasizeaddedanironicdimensiontowaltz,toemphasizethesocial
culturalbackwardnessofHuckandhisGang.,ThegroupsleaderledbyTomSawyer,who
remarksthatonwishgrantinggeniesgeniesthattheyvehavegottowaltz[athatwishedfor]
palacearoundthecountrywhereveryouwantit.Thisrhetoricalmeiosisminimizesthe
comparativelyimposingverbstotransportandtotransferintoaninstantaneousmoresimple
action.,Iinkeepingwiththenotionofuneducated,imaginativesouthernchildren,.Dickens
quasitransitivewaltzingbecomesTwainsjocular,entirelytransitivewaltz,isplayfully
unconcerned.
TheonlyothernotablecolloquialuseoccurrednNearlyacenturylaterin1968,major
AmericanperiodicalTimeprintedwaltzasaslangterminreferencetoainthecontextof
gambling,namelyahorserace:ThoughDancereasedhimupattheend,NevelePridewonina
waltz.Thisformofwaltzascolloquialsubstantivelikelyexistedforyears,ifnotforafew
decades,priortothepopularacceptanceofthewordassuitableforanationalpublication..
Ultimately,Regrettably,fromthemidtwentiethcenturyonward,however,comethe
twentiethcentury,theoriginal,1781significanceofwaltz,theintimatetripletimedancewaltz,
slippedinpopularity,losinggroundfirsttodancessuchasthetango,foxtrot,andperformed
ballet..WideningintotheVienneseandothervarietiesinadditiontochangingtimes(2/4,6/8,
and5/4),thedanceitselflostitspurity(OED,waltz).Despiteitsrich,storiedsocialand
etymologicalpast,waltzanditsdevelopmentsseemprecioustothetwentyfirstcentury,savefor
itsstiff,ballroomcousinasport.,wherethewordappearsonlyinreferencetothestiff
interpretationfoundincompetitiveballroomdancing.Aswaltzsusagenarrows,soittoofades

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intoobsolescenceWaltzitselfsplit,intothemoretraditional,Viennesevarietyandintoothers,
performedindifferenttimes(2/4,6/8,and5/4,forexample)(Carner63).Despiteitsrich,storied
socialandetymologicalpast,waltzanditsdevelopmentsseemprecioustothetwentyfirst
century,wherethewordappearsonlyinreferencetothestiffinterpretationfoundincompetitive
ballroomdancing.Aswaltzsusagenarrows,soittoofadesintoobsolescence.

ENDPAPERWITHDISTINCTIONBETWEENWALTZES(VIENNESEAND
OTHERWISE)

WorksCited
Campbell,John,ed."PapersoftheTwiningFamily."Spectator60(1887):35758.Print.
Carner,Mosco.TheWaltz.London:M.Parrish,1948.Print.
Schrijver,Peter."TheHighGermanConsonantShiftandLanguageContact."Studiesin
SlavicandGeneralLinguistics38(2011):21749.Print.
Selwyn, David. Jane Austen and Leisure. London: Hambledon, 1999. Print.
"Waltz."Dictionary.com.Dictionary.com,2007.Web.22Sept.2012.
<http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/waltz>.

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"Waltz."OxfordEnglishDictionary.Ed.J.A.SimpsonandE.S.C.Weiner.2nded.Vol. 19.
NewYork:OxfordUP,1989.863.Print.