Mudcat Café message #654381 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #44448   Message #654381
Posted By: Matthew Edwards
20-Feb-02 - 09:56 PM
Thread Name: Sound Of Pear-Shaped Tones
Subject: RE: Sound Of Pear-Shaped Tones
Mrrzy, I think you have started quite an intriguing discussion here. Although Don's and Mmario's definitions are helpful, and Don's suggestion that the term come from the teaching of singing sounds good we still don't know the origin of the term - and I can't offer much help beyond what I've found by following your example of "Googlewhacking".
This takes the phrase back as far as the early 1590's when the line:-
What Greek thunders in such pear-shaped tones?
occurs in the contemporary translation of an introductory sonnet in Latin congratulating the author, Thomas Alabaster, of a Senecan tragedy composed in Latin, Roxana. The Latin reads:-
"Quis Graium tonat ore tam rotundo?"
leading the editor to conclude that the phrase refers to a 'forced, mock-impressive manner.'(I would have thought that something more complimentary is intended, reading rotundo more as "rolling, fluent".)
The play is generally considered dull and has been out of print since 1632 but if anybody wishes to read it the online text is available at Thomas Alabaster
On a much lighter note the WW2 radio humourist Bob Burns had a turn with Tommy Dorsey about his new instrument, the "Bazooka" -
Tommy : Can you blow that thing and get a real pear-shaped tone?
Bob : Tommy, when I used to play this thing in Vaudeville, I got every vegetable in the garden.
Check out this and other stories on Bob Burns: Radio Humour

Not much more help from Google apart from more than I really wanted to know about aspects of Genito-Urinary Medicine! However it was worth finding out that Erik Satie composed three piano duets entitled "Trois Morceaux en forme de poire" (Three pear-shaped pieces), in resonse to a complaint that his music lacked form!