The collection of parents who wait for their kids’ school bus every morning and afternoon at our corner on Hope Street testifies to the greatness of the Vartan Gregorian Elementary School in Fox Point. This afternoon the line “I’ll second that emotion” was heard, and a reference to its origin followed as day follows the night. Technically, “second that emotion” is a pun on “second that motion.” I drop it into every conversation I have. By now more people are familiar with Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “second that emotion” than the “second that motion” of Robert’s Rules of Order – how many folks nowadays attend committee meetings, after all!
So what does that have to do with architecture? Well, glad you asked that. A pun is sort of like a visual twist on a conventional detail of ornament. Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s corn capital atop columns inside the U.S. Capitol – with corn replacing the Corinthian capital’s acanthus leaves – is one of the most famous architectural puns. The first person to substitute “motion” with “emotion” – Smokey Robinson, I suppose, or his lyricist – was using a supple sensibility to add ornamental humor to the language, just like a great architect occasionally does in designing a building.