Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Unusual words in songs, the answers

About a month ago, I posted a list of unusual words that I've seen in the lyrics of some songs, and challenged people to come up with the names of the songs that they appeared in (without using Google). Either no one cared, or nothing can be gleaned, these days, but through Google. Ah, well. And so, here, I post the answers:

  1. “rotogravure”
    The Ridger did answer this one in the comments: Irving Berlin's “Easter Parade”:
    On the Avenue, Fifth Avenue,
    The photographers will snap us
    And you'll find that you're in the rotogravure.
    Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet
    And of the girl I'm taking to the Easter Parade.
  2. “plebeian”
    This one's from “Cry Me a River”, sung by everyone — really, it seems like it's everyone — from Ella Fitzgerald to Joe Cocker, one of the most standard of the Old Standards:
    You told me love was too plebeian,
    Told me you were through with me an'
    Now you say you love me, well just to prove you do,
    Come on and cry me a river, cry me a river,
    I cried a river over you.
  3. “vestibule”
    This is from a light little ditty that was popular when I was in junior high school. It was a silly song. A bit of raciness, so we thought at the time, but very tame as looked at with today's standards. It's “My Ding-a-Ling”, by Chuck Berry:
    And then mother took me to grammar school
    But I stopped off in the vestibule
    Every time that bell would ring
    Catch me playin' with my ding a ling
  4. “antepenultimate”
    Ah, now here is a song to make a language person smile. Michael Flanders and Donald Swann did a bunch of humourous, topical, and otherwise interesting tunes. On their first album, At the Drop of a Hat, appeared “Madeira, M'Dear”, loaded with examples of syllepsis. Check out the wonderful trio at the end of this verse:
    Then there flashed through her head what her mother once said
    With her antepenultimate breath:
    “Oh my child, should you look on the wine when 'tis red,
    Be prepared for a fate worse than death!”
    She let go her glass with a shrill little cry.
    Crash, tinkle! It fell to the floor.
    When he asked “What in heaven...?” she made no reply,
    Up her mind and a dash for the door.

Talking of songs...

The other day, a friend and I were in a café and heard a song playing:

Where, oh where can my baby be?
The lord took her away from me.
She's gone to heaven and I've got to be good,
So I can see my baby when I leave this world.
My friend asked who was singing the song, and I didn't know. But I did know, without a second thought, that the title is “Last Kiss”, and the original hit in the early '60s was done by J Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers. How on Earth does one remember 43-year-old useless information like that, and retrieve it from a tune and a few lyrics? The brain is an amazing thing. (And I now know that the version the café was playing was Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam. I had no idea they'd had a huge hit with it in 1999. Ah, well.)


Ray said...

Ah... Flanders and Swann. I truly enjoyed their work when I was growing up - still do, as a matter of fact. Coincidentally, Bryn Terfel performed one of their songs (The Gasman Cometh) on A Prairie Home Companion this past weekend.

I have three CDs with their songs, plus a VHS tape of them performing. They had a marvellous way with words, as you know, and if you'd like to hear more of them, let me know and I will lend you what I have.

The Ridger, FCD said...

Usually a single word isn't enough, though I do know Flanders and Swann!

I love the way they do those WTF coordinations (like the one you quote: She made (a) no reply, (b) up her mind, and (c) a dash for the door.

What's worse, I remember Last Kiss.