Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Vocal C[h]ords

According to The Guardian, an actress has...

...previously expressed her eagerness to flex her vocal chords on a guest spot on Glee, and for a spell was attached to a Judy Garland biopic.

Aha! I thought. There's a topic for a post. Because, you see, there are cords in your throat that vibrate to produce sound. Several people's vocal cords vibrating at the same time will produce a chord.

So I go to the OED. I look up cord. I get down to section 2.b and there it is.

Now applied generally to a nerve trunk, and spec. to certain structures, esp. the spermatic cord, spinal cord, and umbilical cord, the vocal cords; see these words.

Ok. I'll see those words. I turn to the entry for vocal and to my shock and flabbergasterment, I see this in section 6.a:

Operative or concerned in the production of voice. Freq. in vocal chord, vocal fold, vocal organs, vocal tract, etc.

So I can't really criticise The Guardian at all. Or if I did, I'd have to sneer at the OED too, which is blasphemous. I would have no lexicographical backing or supply chain. I would just be alone, muttering maledictions, straining my vocal kords, and shouting myself horse.

The Inky Fool was feeling a little horse that day.


  1. I think you can sneer, if you are so inclined: "frequently" might only mean that people frequently get it wrong.

  2. If it still bugs you that people use "vocal chords" (and have, in a minority, for as long as they have used "vocal cords"), you can justify their usage this way:

    Chord n. Mathematics A straight line joining the ends of an arc.

    (The New Oxford American Dictionary, 2005)

    In the diagram above, it is clear that this meaning of the word would be true, and this was the justification given to me by my uber-prescriptivist grandmother many years ago.

  3. Always sneer at the Guardian. They secretly love it.