Om tiddly om pom

October 1, 1999

It was amusing to find in Kevin Jones's article on Fibonacci applications to verse and music (Research, THES, September 17) that the popular rhythmic jingle "Om tiddly om pom - pom pom" also works in his system if the "tiddly" is a triplet. But Three Blind Mice, Auld Lang Syne, Little Miss Muffet and the national anthem do not. Syllable-counting is not a satisfactory approach to metre, since it ignores the musical form underlying the verse, where duration of the note is crucial. When we speak limericks, we unconsciously observe the musical duration of the syllables, whereby, if the first seven syllables in "There was an old man with a beard" are x in length, the final one is 5x, and the breakdown of the 34 syllables of the whole limerick is 29 times x, 2 times 2x, and 3 times 5x. Fibonacci values no longer apply. Musically the limerick is a four-square form of 16 beats, and the Fibonacci values of the syllables and lines appear coincidental to this one verse-form.

It is surprising that Jones did not draw attention to the real point of Fibonacci numbers: as they grow larger, the ratio between any of them and the preceding one progressively approximates closer to the ratio 1: 0.618033989, which is the Golden Section. This is true of all series of the type a+b=c, b+c=d, c+d I and the Fibonacci series originates in the algebra of any such series. Can Jones find any application of the Golden Section to limericks?

David Dearlove

Tisbury, Wiltshire

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