Dumb musicological thing: The Guided By Voices song “My Valuable Hunting Knife” is in one very specific way the exact opposite of “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd.

The hook from “Comfortably Numb” depends on a colloquial mispronunciation. The title phrase gets exactly four notes, sung on even triplets, which requires Roger Waters to sing it with the t before the r: “cumf-terb-lee,” as opposed to “cum-fer-tub-lee.” (I know no one pronounces comfortable correctly, but you can bet that if Cole Porter wanted to use it in a lyric, he’d give it four notes.)

“My Valuable Hunting Knife” does exactly the opposite: valuable gets four notes all to itself (“val-yoo-uh-bull”). Robert Pollard emphasizes the unnaturally elongated pronunciation by (a) setting those four syllables to an up-and-down pattern of pitches that can’t be elided or slurred, and (b) singing a three-note melisma on my right before it: “mah-ah-aye val-yoo-uh-bull.”

Thinking about this has made me think once more about the ubiquity of the pronunciation “cumf-terb-ull,” which is something I’ve probably thought about on twenty separate occasions in my life. Of course, the main reason it has achieved such hegemony is that it’s easier to say. But is it possible that its adoption was encouraged by the way the first two syllables of comf-terb-ull rhyme with disturb – that the mind unconsciously recognizes comf-terb as an antonym for disturb and perturb?