Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Word Wars - Dave Hester v. Trey Songz

I want to bring attention to a portion of December 1st's post titled Words: Winning, Losing, Fighting and Banned in 2011. Some of you may have missed it because it was "below the fold". Here it is -

Dave Hester of the television show "Storage Wars" and rapper Trey Songz are fighting over the right to use the word YUUUP as a "signature sound". Via an article in the New York Post,
Hester, however, argues that Songz’ version “resembles an animal-like or non-human squeal which begins with a distinct ‘yeeee’ sound before finishing with a squeal-like ‘uuuup’ sound.”
That’s “distinct and different from Hester’s more monosyllabic sounding guttural auction bidding phrase...which is meant to convey the meaning of ‘yes,’ ” court papers say.
What do you think?

COMMENT - They don't sound the same at all to me. I don't hear the /p/ at the end of the Trey Songz version. Also, notice all the different spellings of the sound (not surprising but how do you trademark a sound based on spelling). I think they will need the services of a forensic linguist and the trademark will have to be based upon a phonetic transcription.


The reason I reposted the above portion of the post is that I really want to hear what readers think. Do you think the sounds are similar? Do you think a sound like this should be trademarkable? What do you think about the various spellings? Is this a matter of trademarking a word, a series of letters, a sound, or some combination of the three?

I have begun work on an MSc in forensic linguistics and the subject of the trademarkability of sounds is one I am considering for a paper. Please share any and all thoughts you may have on the subject by clicking on the comment button.


Lady Jane Grey said...

They definitely don't sound the same to me either. I also don't hear a /p/ at the end of Songz' version (but then it is also hard for me to tell if there is a /p/ at the end of Hester's... it almost sounds like a glottal stop when I listen to it without looking at the video), and they both have distinctly different vowel sounds.

I've always thought that the trademarking of individual words (other than brand names) is a bit ridiculous. You just run into all sorts of issues. I don't know a lot about trademark law, but since isolated words can derive so much of their meaning from context, it seems that fact alone could make it a really sticky problem. In this case, phonetic transcription seems like the best route to resolve the conflict, but can you trademark a phonetic transcription? That seems to open up a whole new realm of ridiculousness.

P.S. Where are you getting your degree in Forensic Linguistics? I have a friend who is very interested getting a masters in the field

Simply Charity said...

Seriously? Cease & desist. Weird logic...truly legal. If upheld, I would venture to believe that any portions of spoken language (and portions of written language) would then become under ownership of someone else- a hateful thought.
But, no, it's not the same sound. (My husband, a political scientist, has an uncanny ear for identifying voices. I'll be interested in your work.)
(Not surprised that some it's Hester and not Barry, though)

Laura Payne said...

Lady Jane Grey - I am in the distance learning MSc program at Aston University. I have completed the lectures for the first module and am researching topics for the final paper. So far, I am enjoying the program and would recommend it to anyone who does not live near a university that offers a forensic linguistics degree.

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