‘Venusian only’ can tongue-tie;
grit much preferred to sugared dross
that wreaks decay. Pink candy floss;

a sacch’rine sickly-sweet spun lie
is even worse – give me barbed verse;
a jagged word fish-hooks the eye,

shrink-wraps synaptic gaps to cross.
‘Venusian only’ can tongue-tie.

This is written in Octain form.


Eight lines as two tercets and a couplet, eight syllables per line with the first line repeated (as much as possible) as the last. Meter is iambic tetrameter or trochaic tetrameter, but fine to just count eight syllables per line for people who prefer that. Rhyme scheme –


(A=repeated refrain line. c/c refers to line 5 having midline (internal) rhyme that is different to the a- and b-rhymes. Any extra midline rhyme is a bonus).


Filed under Octain

29 responses to “Ankyloglossia

  1. Doveonfire

    Magnificent – thaknyou.

  2. Julie, I need some help here. I’ve looked for Venutian. I don’t know what it means or what pronunciation (stresses).


  3. It’s from ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ Beth. Men speak Martian, women Venusian. We often talk about Venusian on the board when referring to the softer language that women generally use/prefer. It’s pronounced


    • Sometimes I feel so bloomin’ backwoods it isn’t funny. Sorry but it went right over my head. I could talk cattle and ranching all day but girl talk doesn’t happen much around here. Ranch country is definitely Martian.

      I see Christi already did a crit on this for you while I was distracted. Thanks to Christi.

      I will come back and peek if you make changes. By the way, the title is fabulous.

      • No worries Beth, I know you must be run off your feet this evening my lovely. I think I’m pretty happy with it after Christi’s tiny tweak, often happens with stuff that I write in ten minutes flat. I did wonder though if it would read more smoothly with inverted commas?

        ‘Venusian only’ can tongue-tie

  4. My fault Beth, I was editing it when you posted your reply as I realised I’d spelt it incorrectly. Sorry honey.

  5. Hi Julie, I was having the same problem as Beth, trying to look up and understand the meaning of that one word. So glad you explained. IMHO that would be the one small sticking point, especially for those of us unfamiliar with the board references.Really like this. Even when you’re letting people know you prefer “substance” over the “sicky-sweet”, you do it with such beauty and form!

  6. Thanks for the great feedback Ginny. It is a very well known book/saying. If you google ‘women speak Venusian’ it comes up with a whole host of websites. There’s also a pretty well known quote from the movie ‘What Women Want’ when his psychiatrist tells him – ”If men come from Mars and women from Venus, then you speak Venusian.’ Perhaps I do need to put a footnote with it though just to clarify.

  7. I do not feel I’m your girl for offering any crit here because I loved this. I am not being insincere when I say I really did enjoy all of the lines, but these stood out to me,
    “grit much preferred to sugared dross
    that wreaks decay. Pink candy floss;”


  8. I do enjoy the Octain and what you did with it. I read it aloud and it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. I’m at a loss to critique it. I love it and didn’t see any cliche.

  9. I’m with Lori on this one! Enjoyed it much as well! And thanks so much for your thoughtful comments on my piece. I loved what your suggestions did for the poem, and was hoping I might be able to return the favor, guess IMHO you’ll have to take it standing perfectly as is! 🙂

  10. Thanks Natasha. I love it when I only have to make a few little tweaks to get a piece to work – I’m such a lazy-ass poet.

    Are you going to come and join the FEPC crit group on FB?

  11. i wont mess with beauty, but i will say thank you for a great job on the crit tonight…been following your footsteps around the linky and you have been doing strong work…thank you…

    • You’re welcome Brian, I’ve had a thoroughly enjoyable evening, reading and commenting on some wonderful poetry, and it’s only possible because you guys have created such a fantastic creative space for us all to share, so thank you also. I’m just off to bed, have walked miles of the coastal path today, so tired but smiley. Nos dda cariad.

  12. Perfect and witty – it works 🙂

  13. I enjoy the fact that ankyloglossia is a tongue twister in and of itself. You do a nice job of elaborating the specific ways that Venusian is lacking which brings to mind some of Monique Wittig’s feminist critiques of gendered language (in her case, French). ‘Jagged word fish-hooks the eye’ hit me in the face but I believe that was your intention though the line may have been somewhat shaped by the rhyme. I agree with others – my favorite line is ‘shrink-wraps synaptic gaps’ for the inner line rhyme. Thanks for sharing it for Crit Friday.

  14. Julie – a great octain. Interested to see the comments about Venusian – personally very accessible as that book and the concept had so much publicity in the UK a few years back. I must admit I prefer the phrase without the inverted commas as it flows better for me that way.

    Beautiful use of language, with this being my fave part – love how you have embodied that gap!

    a jagged word fish-hooks the eye,

    shrink-wraps synaptic gaps to cross.

  15. Very clever Julie, sharp and concise, love ‘Venusian only’ with the commas, it gives pause before the next words so there’s no stumbling as they are quite hard words to follow otherwise.

  16. I read through some of the comments on my way down here to respond… I found it ironic that I, being a guy, got the “Venutian” reference when so many women didn’t… LOL! I’m still laughing!

    My only critique (if it can be called that) is your use of alliteration in the first line of S2. I understand the correlation between being tongue-tied and the difficulty of saying “s” words in succession so the irony of it is not lost on me. Also, L2 of the same stanza had the internal rhyming of “worse” and “verse”, which read a bit off for me in terms of flow, probably because of the second half of the line which reads “give me barbed verse” where you have 3 stressed syllables in 4 syllables. I appreciate that it doesn’t have to be written in a set meter, but metered or not, the flow just doesn’t read well aloud although the content is still great.

    The rest of the poem I have nothing to comment on except that I loved it for it’s underlying humor, which definitely was done well 🙂


    • Thanks Robert. As you noticed the ‘Venusian’ words (sugared, sacch’rine, sweet-spun) were chosen deliberately to produce a tongue-tied effect while the ‘Martian’ words (barbed, jagged fish-hooks, shrink-wraps, synaptic gaps) were meant to give a more arresting/jarring effect.

      Meter isn’t my strong point so I asked a couple of the poets on FEPC to take a look at it but there were differing opinions. Luke felt that ‘barbed verse’ was a spondee which I’m guessing is how you were reading it, whereas Christi and I read that line as ‘give ME / barbed VERSE ‘. I think I’m happy to sacrifice perfect meter if it’s to the benefit of the piece and in this case I think it is.

      It’s been reat to get some in-depth feedback on this, I look forward to interacting with you on the FEPC discussion board.

  17. Ankylosing tongues describes it perfectly! Avery witty use of the tongue-twisting words, but maybe not meant to be read aloud!? The poem is full of gems, invidious to pick out any one – I enjoyed it all. Venusian – I think I would pronounce it with more of a sibilant than a ‘sh’, as closer to its linguistic root!

  18. PS I am not terribly comfortable with syllable-counting in a stressed language
    but in this case you have obeyed metric rules as well, and that really works.

  19. Thanks Vivian, yes I see what you mean about Venusian. Perhaps I should record this one and see if I can actually get my tongue around it?

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