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Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish

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DONA DONA


Related threads:
(origins) Origins: Dona Dona (87)
Lyr/Chords Req: Donna (Dona, Dona) (15)


Haruo 18 Mar 02 - 09:29 PM
khandu 18 Mar 02 - 09:41 PM
Mark Cohen 18 Mar 02 - 09:48 PM
ddw 18 Mar 02 - 09:56 PM
WyoWoman 18 Mar 02 - 10:16 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 18 Mar 02 - 10:21 PM
ddw 19 Mar 02 - 12:00 AM
Mark Cohen 19 Mar 02 - 12:34 AM
Mark Cohen 19 Mar 02 - 12:39 AM
Haruo 19 Mar 02 - 02:23 AM
Jeanie 19 Mar 02 - 02:55 PM
Mark Cohen 19 Mar 02 - 07:06 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 19 Mar 02 - 09:09 PM
Haruo 19 Mar 02 - 10:14 PM
BH 20 Mar 02 - 07:10 PM
Bob Bolton 20 Mar 02 - 09:23 PM
Mark Cohen 20 Mar 02 - 09:36 PM
GUEST,jane 21 Mar 02 - 03:04 AM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 21 Mar 02 - 05:41 AM
bernil 21 Mar 02 - 12:07 PM
Mark Cohen 21 Mar 02 - 12:50 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 21 Mar 02 - 01:55 PM
Haruo 21 Mar 02 - 09:02 PM
Bennet Zurofsky 22 Mar 02 - 05:14 PM
Mark Cohen 22 Mar 02 - 09:50 PM
Bennet Zurofsky 24 Mar 02 - 01:44 PM
Wilfried Schaum 25 Mar 02 - 10:23 AM
WyoWoman 26 Mar 02 - 12:38 AM
Mark Cohen 26 Mar 02 - 01:36 AM
Haruo 26 Mar 02 - 02:24 AM
Wilfried Schaum 26 Mar 02 - 06:39 AM
Wilfried Schaum 26 Mar 02 - 06:42 AM
Wilfried Schaum 26 Mar 02 - 06:44 AM
Haruo 26 Mar 02 - 08:32 PM
Mark Cohen 26 Mar 02 - 11:12 PM
Wilfried Schaum 27 Mar 02 - 07:00 AM
Jeanie 27 Mar 02 - 08:47 AM
Wilfried Schaum 27 Mar 02 - 11:18 AM
Haruo 27 Mar 02 - 04:21 PM
GUEST, Erin 26 Jun 03 - 10:03 PM
Mark Cohen 26 Jun 03 - 10:43 PM
Wilfried Schaum 27 Jun 03 - 02:47 AM
Wilfried Schaum 27 Jun 03 - 05:25 AM
Wilfried Schaum 27 Jun 03 - 06:11 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 27 Jun 03 - 07:17 AM
Bob Bolton 27 Jun 03 - 07:51 AM
Wilfried Schaum 27 Jun 03 - 09:27 AM
GUEST,HUTZUL 27 Jun 03 - 02:22 PM
Mark Cohen 28 Jun 03 - 12:26 AM
Nenana 28 Jun 03 - 02:02 AM
Frankham 28 Jun 03 - 12:15 PM
Mark Cohen 29 Jun 03 - 02:57 AM
Wilfried Schaum 19 Jan 06 - 02:37 AM
Wilfried Schaum 19 Jan 06 - 07:18 AM
Genie 17 Sep 11 - 09:02 PM
Wilfried Schaum 18 Sep 11 - 05:31 AM
GUEST,Angela 02 Oct 11 - 09:50 AM
GUEST,Ruth Kevess-Cohen 15 Sep 13 - 11:28 PM
GUEST,Masumi 27 Nov 13 - 07:03 PM
GUEST 27 Nov 13 - 07:22 PM
Jack Campin 27 Nov 13 - 08:16 PM
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Subject: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Haruo
Date: 18 Mar 02 - 09:29 PM

Is this derived from "(A)donay, (A)donay" = "Lord, Lord"?

Liland


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: khandu
Date: 18 Mar 02 - 09:41 PM

I don't know Yiddish. My unlearned guess is "Lady, lady".

khandu


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 18 Mar 02 - 09:48 PM

I'm pretty sure it's not...one wouldn't use that name in a casual song, only in a prayer. When I get home from work I'll check my Yiddish dictionary and see what I can find out. I suspect it's just nonsense syllables, the Yiddish equivalent of fol-the-diddle-di-do or E-I-E-I-O.

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: ddw
Date: 18 Mar 02 - 09:56 PM

I'm not sure on this either, but are you referring to Joan Baez's song (don't know it's origins, but she sang it) called Dona Dona?

If so, I thought it was Spanish and that a dona is a lady —— the feminine equivalent of a don, i.e., the head of an estate.

As I said, I'm not sure.....

david


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: WyoWoman
Date: 18 Mar 02 - 10:16 PM

I've wondered about this, but why would Spanish words show up like that in a Yiddish song? Also, dona means "give," doesn't it? en espanol- pero ... porque?

Waiting for the shedding of light ...

ww


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Dona dona' in Yiddish
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 18 Mar 02 - 10:21 PM

Check this previous thread.

Dona Dona


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: ddw
Date: 19 Mar 02 - 12:00 AM

I can see from the linked threat I was WAY off base on this one. Now I've had my daily edification, I can go be REALLY dumb for the rest of the day....

david


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 19 Mar 02 - 12:34 AM

Well, I looked it up in Uriel Weinreich's Modern English-Yiddish/Yiddish English Dictionary, and couldn't find a Yiddish word that resembles Dona or Donna. My Hebrew dictionary disappeared some time ago, but a search of some online sites also didn't turn up any Hebrew word...the closest match was a word that transliterates as "Donah"...which is the Hebrew version of the name "Donna"! So I'll stick with the theory that it's a form of "la-da-da", unless someone comes up with a more plausible explanation. Hebrew and Yiddish songs often use those kinds of "nonsense" syllables...especially among the Hasidim, where wordless melody is central to the tradition.

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 19 Mar 02 - 12:39 AM

Oh, and ddw, nobody is so angry at your guess that they would link a threat to you! (Sorry...my brain has an automatic proofreader wired in!)

By the way, Liland, it's a great question!

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Haruo
Date: 19 Mar 02 - 02:23 AM

Sorry everybody, just when I got done posting this thread I ran out of time on the library computer, so I have had some reading to do to catch up (especially what with the very interesting thread George Seto came up with - and which a Digitrad/Forum search had missed). The impetus for my question came from a thread started about a week ago on the Usenet Newsgroup soc.culture.esperanto. Here's the first post in that thread:
Saluton al ^ciuj,

de tagoj sekvas min la melodio de donna, donna, donna kaj mi finfine ^cerpis el la kongresa kantareto de la IJK en Veszprèm la tekston. Sed strange -- kial en tia trista kanto oni alvokas damon?

Mi do ser^cis supozitan italan originalon. Vane ser^cante mi eksciis ke estis de judo en la varsovia getto kiu ^jus vidis naziojn mortenpeli sian familion -- povraj bovidoj! Kaj ke (a)donaj signifas en la jida originalo mia sinjoro.

Malfeli^ce la esperantotraduko sekvas la anglan version, ^ce Joan Baez ne tute fidela kaj ^ce Donovan e^c malpli. Almena^u donaj povus resti tia a^u tradukiti. Ne estante poeto mi provis nur la^ueble fideli al la originalo kaj tamen konservi la ritmon. ^Guu tamen a^u plibonigu:

Yiddish

  1. Ojfn forel ligt a kelbl,
    ligt gebundn mit a schtrick,
    hojch am himml fligt a foigl
    fligt und drejt sich hin un tsrik
    Lacht der wind in korn,
    lacht un lacht un lacht
    lacht erop a tog a gantsn
    un a halbe nacht


    donaj, donaj, donaj, donaj,
    donaj, donaj, donaj, don,
    donaj, donaj, donaj, donaj,
    donaj, donaj, donaj, don

  2. Schreit dos kelbl, sagt der pojer,
    wer-ssche hejst dich sajn a kalb?
    Wolst gekent doch sain a foigl,
    wolst gekent doch sajn a schwalb!

  3. Bidne kelblech tut men bindn,
    un men schlept sej un men schecht.
    Wer's hot fligl, flit aroif tsu,
    is bej kejnem nischt kejn knecht

Esperanto

  1. Sur ^careto ku^sas bovid',
    ku^sas ligata kun ^snur'
    Alten^ciele flugas birdo
    flugas tien kaj reen

    Ridas vent en grenkampo,
    ridas, ridas kaj rid'
    ridas suben tagon tutan
    kaj nokton duonan pli


    sinjoro, sinjoro, sinjoro,
    sinjoro, sinjoro, sin,
    sinjoro, sinjoro, sinjoro,
    sinjoro, sinjoro, sin

  2. Krias bovid', diras farmist'
    kiu diris: estu bovid'?
    Volus esti birdo vi,
    volus esti hirundo vi

  3. Stultajn bovidetojn ligas,
    oni tiras ilin, bu^cas
    Kiu flugilhavas, supren!
    ^ce neniu estas servist'
oma^ge al mortigita poeto Itzchak Katsenelson kaj genia novjorka teatromuzikisto Sholom Secunda

Daniel Pfeiffer
Greetings to all,

for days the melody of donna, donna, donna has been following me, and I finally got the text from the conference song-booklet of the IJK [Esperanto Youth Congress] en Veszprèm. But that's odd -- why call out to a lady in such a sad son?

So I was seeking what I supposed to be an Italian original. Searching in vain, I found out it was a Jew in the Warsaw Ghetto who had just seen Nazis driving his family away to their deaths -- poor calves! And that (a)donaj means in the Yiddish original "my Lord".

Unfortunately the Esperanto translation follows the English version, which is not entirely faithful in the case of Joan Baez, and yet less so with Donovan. At least "donaj" could have been left as it was, or translated. Not being a poet I have just tried to be as faithful as I could to the original and yet conserve the rhythm. Still, enjoy it, or improve upon it:

Yiddish text

Esperanto text

in homage to the murdered poet Itzchak Katsenelson and the New York musical theater genius Sholom Secunda

Daniel Pfeiffer
Whew! I sure hope I got all the line breaks and stuff in there and that it comes out legible on the screen! I wish I could use tables... ;-(

This is one of those songs that I first learned in Esperanto, then in the Baez version (I've never been into Donovan), and only much later encountered the Yiddish original. I had always assumed that "dona dona" were nonsense syllables like "too-rally-oo-rally", but then I had not been aware of the Holocaust connection, which might make it, to reply to Mark Cohen supra, a "prayer" and not just a "casual song". In the form of Yiddish I'm familiar with the word for "my Lord" that is "Adonai" in transliterated Hebrew is pronounced "adoyne" (accent on the middle syllable), but of course there's plenty of variety in Yiddish dialects, not to mention many Yiddish speakers have always also been Hebrew speakers. So I don't know. I'm not sure that Daniel Pfeiffer is wrong. On the other hand, I doubt it, and so far he hasn't replied to my request for more info on his sources.

Incidentally, the Yiddish text is in Zemerl in a normative YIVO transliteration (along with English and Hebrew versions) but when I try to get it to generate an image file of the Hebrew-alphabet Yiddish text (by clicking on the letter alef) it only does the first two verses and the refrain. Irritating. Oh well.

Liland


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Jeanie
Date: 19 Mar 02 - 02:55 PM

Thanks for the link to the Zemerl website, Liland - what an excellent site ! I've only had a quick look through it just now, but have already found so much useful and interesting stuff, and links to other places too. I hadn't heard this song in years, then heard it sung last year at a Passover Seder. The (Liberal Jewish) family I was with obviously sing it regularly at their seder, because they had typed it out, along with more traditional songs for passover, in their "personalised" family "haggadah" booklet. I had never, until now, ever thought of a holocaust connotation to this song.How interesting. And it makes the song very moving.

Shalom

- Jeanie


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 19 Mar 02 - 07:06 PM

Liland, there really is no way I can see this as related to "adonay". First of all, despite its English translation, that word is not used as we might say, "My Lord", in the sense of crying out to God when we're in distress. It's only used in the synagogue liturgy and in formal blessings. There are many other phrases that are used when "informally" addressing God, and which would have been used by an Eastern European poet if that were the context.

In addition, the transliteration given as "donaj" (which might understandably lead to that derivation) is simply incorrect. The word in the Yiddish text would be transliterated as "dawnah" or "doonah", depending on your accent of choice. The final vowel is "patach alef", which is pronounced "ah", not "ay", "ai", or "aj". In addition, Yiddish words that are originally Hebrew use the Hebrew spelling (which often is incongruous in Yiddish), and this is definitely a Yiddish spelling. It's not a common form for a Yiddish word, though, and looks more like a transliteration itself.

Which raises the interesting possibility that it may have come from a different language...which might make ddw's original guess not quite so out of line, after all! I'd be interested to know if anyone has ever pursued this further...did the theatrical song come from a folksong in yet another tradition? Very interesting...

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 19 Mar 02 - 09:09 PM

ddw, no need to apologize. We all do it.

Liland. Thanks for starting this thread. I've often wondered what it was as well. Also, thanks for the interesting information you supplied from the other list.
It's for this sort of thing that I started the Song Origin thread, which Katlaughing has made into a Permathread. Check it out some time. Sometimes the Forum Search for whatever reason comes back with no result even when I KNOW it's there someplace. So, for those where it had information like you have generated here, I put them into that thread.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Haruo
Date: 19 Mar 02 - 10:14 PM

In the other thread linked to a ways up this one, there is the following very pertinent quotation (pertinent, that is, to the issue of where ultimately Mr. Pfeiffer's misinformation about the authorship—it doesn't address the "(a)donai" issue—came from):
Words by Aaron Zeitlin (1889-1973); music by Sholom Secunda (1894-1974). Published in sheet music by Metro Music Co., New York, 1943. Originally entitled "Dana, Dana, Dana,": the song was written for Zeitlin's play Esterke, produced by Maurice Schwartz in 1940-41, and printed in the program. It became one of the most widely sung Yiddish songs and was performed in Yiddish and English translation by Theodore Bikel, Joan Baez, and others Translations have also appeared in German and Korean. In some collections, beginning with Ben Yomen's (1946), the words are erroneously attributed to Yitskhok Katzenelson, a Hebrew-Yiddish poet active in the Warsaw Ghetto underground. In a recent record produced in Germany, not only is the song attributed to Katzenelson, it is interpreted as having been written in the Ghetto to express Jews' longing for freedom.
Source: Pearls of Yiddish Song, Eleanor Gordon Mlotek & Joseph Mlotek, © 1988, Education Department of Workmen's Circle. ^^
As usual, we Esperantists get ignored (my guess is there have been translations in a lot of other languages, too)...

FWIW, when I first learned the song (in Esperanto, from Kantfesto I, 1982) I was told it was of South African origin...

Liland


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: BH
Date: 20 Mar 02 - 07:10 PM

There are 2 songs---Donna Donna and also Doyna.

Doyna is a love song having to do with gypsies. Sorry that I cannot understand (translate all the words n the Leo Fuld recording of it.

On the same recording he also does Donna Donna --as do so many others. A beautiful piece---and as is stated in the notes on the Fuld recording that is just a nice and simple story going to market---though I always thought it was more than that

Bill H


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 20 Mar 02 - 09:23 PM

G'day BH,

Isn't Doyna (... also Doina just a generic name for a type of song/tune from the Balkan region? I seem to remember that the pan-pipe music of Gheorghe Zamphir had lots of i>Doinas.

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 20 Mar 02 - 09:36 PM

You're correct, Bob. A doyna is a generic term for an improvised, free-rhythm solo, which in traditional klezmer bands was usually played by the clarinet. (No doubt some have had words put to them, which may be what Bill H is remembering.) It's often based on a Hasidic nigun, which is a wordless melody that's intended to amplify an intense personal religious experience...or simply to express joy. Not related to "Dona Dona".

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: GUEST,jane
Date: 21 Mar 02 - 03:04 AM

Did you just want a translation of the title, or tha whole song. I have no idea that the title means, but the lyrics I learned are: On a wagon, bound for market is a calf with a mornful eye High above him there's a swallow winging swiftly through the sky

Stop complaining said the swallow Who told you a calf to be? Why don't you have wings to fly with? Like the swallow so proud and free

Calves are easily bound for slaughter Never knowing the reason why But whoever treasures freedom Like the swallow must learn to fly.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 21 Mar 02 - 05:41 AM

Thanks, Jane. It's believed that those words are not an accurate translation of the original Yiddish song.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: bernil
Date: 21 Mar 02 - 12:07 PM

I saw above tranlations in German and Korean mentioned. There is a translation to Swedish too (very popular perhaps 25-30 years ago) and I've been looking for the text for a long time but haven't found it. I love this song! I didn't find the English text here either until I saw the other thread, because I searched for "Donna, donna". I was very happy when I found it and have played it a lot on my guitar and sang it the last days! It has also been nice to read more about the song and I will keep on following this thread.

Berit in Sweden


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 21 Mar 02 - 12:50 PM

George, the literal translation posted by Joe Offer in the thread you linked to above is accurate, so I'd say the "poetic" words are fairly close to the original. Here's that literal translation; see what you think.

In a wagon lies a calf; it is tied with a rope. High in the sky a swallow soars, is joyous, and runs back and forth.

The wind laughs in the cornfield, laughs and laughs and laughs. It laughs a whole day and half the night. Dona, Dona, Dona...

The calf cries and the farmer says: Who told you to be a calf? You could have been a bird, you could have been a swallow.

Poor calves are bound and dragged and slaughtered. Whoever has wings flies high and is no one's slave.

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 21 Mar 02 - 01:55 PM

That's really excellent MArk. As a non-Yiddish speaker/reader, it is interesting to see how closely the English version I've heard is to the original.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Haruo
Date: 21 Mar 02 - 09:02 PM

Yes, I'm not sure what it is in the English version that Mr. Pfeiffer was complaining about, except for the (spurious) notion that "Donna" ought to be translated "Lord" or something. Both the Baez English version and the usual Esperanto version are reasonably faithful as song translations go to the Yiddish given above.

Liland


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Bennet Zurofsky
Date: 22 Mar 02 - 05:14 PM

As to why the Mloteks' assignment of authorship should be credited: The Mloteks are the premier collectors of yiddish song. Their three volumes are vastly superior to all that came before and reflect in every entry an extremely deep knowledge of the field. They typically cite source poetry from very early secular yiddish writers and also reveal a deep knowledge of the holocaust compositions from the Warsaw and Vilna Ghettos and elsewhere. They had the benefit of contributions from the many yiddish-speaking and reading readers of The Forward as well as access to YIVO archives, etc. They display their knowledge modestly, without vast academic apparatus, but their collections will likely never be matched, let alone exceeded.

Also of note is their son, Zalman Mlotek, who is very active as a musician, music director and record producer of yiddish music and has recently participated in excellent recordings of music from the holoicaust, including one of music written for and sung in Jewish "Cabarets" in the Ghettos of the holocaust. If my recollection serves me, he did not include "Dona Dona," although it certainly would have been appropriate for the cabaret collection if it had been written in the Warsaw Ghetto.

In sum, if any of the three Mloteks (Mother, Father or Son) provide an attribution, it is trustworthy. Also Sholem Secunda was a very successful songwriter for the Yiddish Stage, with several other crossover hits. He certainly knew the importance of immediately copyrighting his songs. I believe his American copyright date precedes the terrible deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto and the uprising there.

All three of Mloteks excellent books are in print and available from the Workmen's Circle. Full info can be found on the Dona Dona thread linked above.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 22 Mar 02 - 09:50 PM

Thanks for the background, Bennet. Would you happen to have an answer to my earlier question, namely, could Zeitlin and Secunda have based their song, at least in part, on an earlier folk song? Perhaps from a different culture in which "Dona Dona" had a meaning? It seems to me that that would be a great topic for an ethnomusicology research paper...if there are any ethnomusicologists out there.

Aloha,
Moshe Lev


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Bennet Zurofsky
Date: 24 Mar 02 - 01:44 PM

Sorry, I know nothing beyond what the Mlotek's wrote and what appears on the other thread. However, it occurs to me that the Spanish connection should not necessarily be ruled out. If the Zeitlin-Secunda musical was set in the Sephardic community then a reference to Spanish, or perhaps Ladino, would have been appropriate, although according to the Mloteks the song was originally called "Dana Dana." The entire question may have simply been based on a transloators choice of a singable vowel.

There is undoubtedly material to be found about the original production in the YIVO archives, and that's probably where you would need to go (with a knowledge of Yiddish) to find out, unless you can get one of the Mloteks, or perhaps Hankus Nevsky, to provide some more information.

Have a zis'n pesach!

Benyomin ben Jaacov


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 25 Mar 02 - 10:23 AM

To put it straight: In Yiddish letters as shown in Zemerl the word must be read: Dana.
It is written with a kames (long a) in the first syllable, and this sound is pronounced o in Ashkenazi or Eastern/German Yiddish. Original o (holem) would be pronounced oy (e.g. Shelomo = Shloyme = Salomon).
About Sephardic or Western/Spanish Jewish I can't say anything. As a German Orientalist I was only concerned with Ashkenazi (not my department, just out of interest), since in my region where a lot of Jews were living since medieval times my local dialect is enriched by a lot of Yiddish words still in use.
Forget the spanish influences; there is no Donna = Lady in Ashkenazi. The idea of Adonay also is invalid; God in everyday speech is referred to as Shem = The Name (e.g. Bórech Hóshem = barúkh hash-shém = praised be The Name = Praised be God).

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: WyoWoman
Date: 26 Mar 02 - 12:38 AM

So, Wilfried, if it's "none of the above," what is it?

ww


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 26 Mar 02 - 01:36 AM

I agree, Wilfried, that's pretty much what I said above. I would only quibble with your rendition of how the word "must" be pronounced. Kometz alef (with the little "T" under the letter), at least among the Yiddish speakers in my family, as well as the ones I've heard on radio and record, is generally pronounced "aw" as in "law"...or, in my grandfather's accent, "oo" as in "boo". It's usually transliterated as "o", which is how Wilfried wrote it--but that "o" doesn't sound like "hot" or "hope". Patach alef (with the little hyphen under the letter) is pronounced "ah" as in "shah". (I know, many Americans pronounce "aw" and "ah" the same...but they're distinct in Yiddish and in Ashkenazic Hebrew--and in Philadelphia!) So the word as written in Yiddish (dalet, kometz alef, nun, patach alef) would not be pronounced "dana" ("dah-na"), but rather "dawna" or "doona".

I suspect that the standard but quirky transliteration of this vowel as "o" is probably why the word is usually sung as "Dona" (rhyming with "Mona" or "Arizona") -- that spelling would be the standard transliteration of the Yiddish word, which in English you'd pronounce with a long "o".

Gee, I'm not usually this pedantic...!

And thanks, Bennet, for mentioning YIVO and Hankus Netsky...there are probably resources "out there" to answer the question of whether the song has traditional roots. I suspect it does, because, whatever else you want to say about that word, it's definitely not Yiddish. I don't have the time to pursue it, but maybe someone else does...

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Haruo
Date: 26 Mar 02 - 02:24 AM

Yeah except in Yiddish (and Ashkenazic Hebrew) it's paSakh alef not paTach alef (as in Shabbos [actually Shabes] rather than Shabbat).

Liland


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 26 Mar 02 - 06:39 AM

Mark, having read your last post I just have looked up my vocabulary of Yiddish expressions as preserved in the language of my town. I had worked through two local plays with Yiddish words and found that my former statement was too apodictic. Some times kames is pronounced o, some times au (= aw), and sometimes both forms are displayed, sometimes with the same word. A patah when stressed can also be pronounced ou.
Interesting that the Hebrew words change their stress following German usage (mostly paroxytona). Since I still have some problems with a few words, would you be so kind and look up my page and give me some hints?

Wilfried


--- Link fixed. ---
---Jeff (PA)---


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 26 Mar 02 - 06:42 AM

Mark, the machine has cut off the rest of my post. It would be awfully kind of you to look at my Yiddish page and give me some hints for the problems I still have with a few translations, marked with a ?.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 26 Mar 02 - 06:44 AM

Mark, I am sure that the link to my page was typed correctly in HTML. So I give it again: http://www.uni-giessen.de/~gb1053/jiddisch.htm

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Haruo
Date: 26 Mar 02 - 08:32 PM

Wilfried, I have no idea what sounds you mean by o, au(=aw) and ou in the following sentence: "Some times kames is pronounced o, some times au (= aw), and sometimes both forms are displayed, sometimes with the same word. A patah when stressed can also be pronounced ou." Can you describe the pertinent IPA symbols? (I suspect Mark may have difficulty with your terms, too, since he and I share, I think, a very similar couple of idiolects of western US SAE.) Examples of the sounds in terms of standard Hochdeutsch or other continental languages' (French or Italian, e.g.) norms would probably be more helpful than "English examples" because these sounds are precisely the ones on which the regional varieties of English are most prone to differ, and we in the US, lacking a queen and whatnot, ;-) have no generally recognized standard to go by in interpreting such examples.

Liland


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 26 Mar 02 - 11:12 PM

Wilfried, I don't know German, so it's a little difficult for me to understand your page in detail. My knowledge of Yiddish and Hebrew is also very limited, so I'm not the best person to ask for advice. In general, however, your observation is correct: Hebrew words which were taken into Yiddish changed their pronunciation to conform to Yiddish/German phonology and stress, though the Hebrew spelling remained intact. (The same thing happens in most languages, as is well known by people who live in Des Moines, or along the Rio Grande!)

It might be helpful if you followed Liland's suggestion and used standard symbols (in parentheses, perhaps) to indicate the pronunciation. I'm also not clear on what these words are: are they German words that have been derived from Hebrew indirectly, via borrowing from Yiddish?

I know we're getting a little far afield from folk music here, but I'm finding the discussion interesting.

Aloha,
Mark

PS, Liland, you're absolutely right about pasach vs. patach. The inconsistency was my fault!


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 27 Mar 02 - 07:00 AM

Liland, I'm not able to give the IPA symbols here - no idea where to get them and how to insert them.
The references I got from older publications in my home town. I try to give approximate sounds in English:
o as in door, but a little bit shorter
au as in house
ou as in so
oy as in coin
When going through my list I found that hebr. b:rogez (enraged) was pronounced here brauches, while in a Yiddish song from Poland it is given as broyges. Yiddish pronounciation in my hometown and its surroundings is also influenced by the local peasants' dialect: o is pronounce as long u (as in moose) ending in a furtive murmuring sound not unlike the Shwa mobile in Hebrew, u is pronounced as a long o (as in door) ending in a furtive u. Lots of interesting observations of no further use.
For all those problems let me refer to Voltaire: "Etymology is a science where the consonants don't count much, and the vowels even less."

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Jeanie
Date: 27 Mar 02 - 08:47 AM

Thanks Liland, Wilfried and Mark - I've been following all this with great interest and admiration for your Hebrew and Jiddisch ! I've been very quiet, because I've been having great fun searching through all kinds of websites, dictionaries and even Jewish cookery books (from which I've found a delicious recipe for rosewater ice-cream, which has got absolutely nothing to do with this whatsoever, but a pleasant diversion, anyway)...

Now ... way back in the aeons of time (such as last week !), Mark said "I'd be interested to know if anyone has pursued this further... did the theatrical song come from a folksong in yet another tradition ?"

In one of my on-line searches around the word "dona", I came across this, which may or may not start to throw a different light on the origins:

From the poem "A Parody", which is part of "A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass", the memories of a slave in America, written in 1845: "They'll bleat and baa, dona like goats..."

Here, "dona" is the sound made by the animal.

Interesting that this source is American, concerns slavery, and comes from a period much earlier than the Holocaust.

I haven't yet been able to find a reference to "dona" with this meaning in any English/American dictionaries, but once I can tear myself away from "The Complete Jewish Cookbook", I'll have a go again.

Shalom ! Aloha ! Mach's gut !

- Jeanie


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 27 Mar 02 - 11:18 AM

Hi Jeanie,

thanks for your really interesting post. But can the dona here be a derivation of to do/done?
since you are interested in Jewish cooking, I strongly recommend a vistit to http://www.cyber-kitchen.com/, a wonderful cookbook site with international recipes, run by Mrs. Mimi Hiller.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Haruo
Date: 27 Mar 02 - 04:21 PM

A groysn dank, Mark, Wilfried & Jeanie!

My guess is "dona" might be a form of "don't they" (in the song from Douglass). The only online Jewish recipe I can contribute is my Esperanto recipe for gefilte fish.

Liland


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: GUEST, Erin
Date: 26 Jun 03 - 10:03 PM

Could it be from the word Duna? A river in Russia also known as the Don? There was a battle fought on the banks of the Duna...? I don't know just thought I would give it shot.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 26 Jun 03 - 10:43 PM

Thanks, Erin, for refreshing this fun thread. I doubt it was from the Duna. I'd still stand by my original position (in my original position? on my original position?), namely, that it's simply a nonsense word. I will maintain that until I'm proven wrong by a knowledgeable person...or until I change my mind!

Aloha,
Mark

PS: Gordon Bok had a song called Duna on his very first album. I think he wrote it, though I'm not sure. It has nothing whatever to do with "Dona, Dona," but I mentioned it because I like the song and because I'm going to be seeing him in concert in Massachusetts next month!


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 27 Jun 03 - 02:47 AM

Mark, you're right with your doubts. Don in Russian is Don, and the Duna is a river in the North and has certainly nothing to do with this song.
By the way, let me refer to famous Voltaire:
Etymology is a science where the consonants don't count much, and the vowels even less.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 27 Jun 03 - 05:25 AM

In spite of my reference given above let me present another guess after looking into the standard Hebrew-German dictionaries of Wilhelm Gesenius and Ludwig Köhler:
The root D-A-H : to fly, to hover.
G. also has a reduplicated root D-D-H : to sway, and assumes that it is related to Arab. D-A'-D-A' : denoting a certin swaying movement [of the camel].
It could fit well to this song when percieved as a cradle song, and considering the flying away in the 3rd stanza.
But careful: it's only a guess.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 27 Jun 03 - 06:11 AM

Addition:
Where does the -na come in? Perhaps it is the suffix for 3. prs. pl. perf. act.: We have swayed.
By the way, correctures in my former post: perceived, certain.
That's happening when you're working in a bloody haste.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 27 Jun 03 - 07:17 AM

Many years, I was having guitar lessons off a great chap ( in his 60s at the time), and, for some reason, I sang "Donna, Donna" to him - or at least the first verse. "That song would really suit my wife," he said. And so I supplied him with the lyrics. A few weeks later, I asked if his wife had learnt the song. " O no!" he said, " she couldn't sing a song that mentions cattle being slaughtered!". Interestingly, I've heard " Donna, Donna " performed with the words tethered substituted for slaughtered.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 27 Jun 03 - 07:51 AM

G'day Mark,

I have a new theory ... the syllables have got out of order - and it's really classical "nonsense (Na-)da-na-da-na-da-na(-da).

Regard(les)s,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 27 Jun 03 - 09:27 AM

Oh god, and now they are bowdlerizing the folksongs!
In the original the poor calf is slaughtered without anaesthetization; that is the meaning of schekhtn.
Giving it a better name won'nt make anything better. Such is life and will be, even if you close your eyes.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: GUEST,HUTZUL
Date: 27 Jun 03 - 02:22 PM

In Ukrainian "oy tie duni, duni, duni, oy tie duni DONA" is a nonsense refrain in several folk songs. Also, "dona, dona, dona, die" The "Whack fal de die dee oh" of Eastern Europe. Ukrainian and Yiddish share many words and phrases. Ergo, to wit i.e. I'm going with "It don't mean a thing, it's just got the swing" Do wop do wop


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 28 Jun 03 - 12:26 AM

My point exactly!

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Nenana
Date: 28 Jun 03 - 02:02 AM

Hey Mark, thank you for the information on the Duna song, it is my Mothers name. Where is Gordon Bok playing? When I googled Duna it pulled up the Don River in Russia saying that both the Danube and the Don were known as Duna...although you are probably right about it being a nonsense word. Erin


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Frankham
Date: 28 Jun 03 - 12:15 PM

I think it has to do with Russian Gypsies. They often sing "Davi Davi Dava" as kind of a Russian or Ukranian scat singing. "scoo-ba doo-ba doo-ba doo-ba" in American.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 29 Jun 03 - 02:57 AM

He's going to be in Newbury on July 26. Check here for other dates: Gordon Bok summer and fall concert schedule.   

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 19 Jan 06 - 02:37 AM

how does it help the calf? Nothing. But that is not the intention of the song. M.Ted has stated the point: Ironically it describes the Jewish situation as a forigner in the Tsar's realm. If you are born as a Jew you are bound to suffer.
... but this song ignores too much of reality and simply blames the victim Wrong. The song exactly describes the situation (up to the beginning of the 20th century). The victim was always then.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 19 Jan 06 - 07:18 AM

Oh my, posted to the wrong thread - due to some nervous breakdowns of the 'Cat.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Genie
Date: 17 Sep 11 - 09:02 PM

Wilfred [[Oh god, and now they are bowdlerizing the folksongs!
In the original the poor calf is slaughtered without anaesthetization; that is the meaning of schekhtn.]]

As I've learned the song (including the way Joan Baez sings it), the line is not
"Calves are easily bound FOR slaughter"
But
"Calves are easily bound AND slaughtered."

English doesn't have a verb comparable to "schekthn" and the closest translation that would scan with the tune seems to be just to use the word "slaughtered" (which does not imply anesthetization).

But this is a digression from the question of what "Dona Dona" means.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 18 Sep 11 - 05:31 AM

Genie,

Joan Baez' version I don't know. Correct translation is: People tie up small calves, drag them away and slaughter them.

The root shakhat means to slaughter, and as everyone concerned with the usage knows that it is done without anaesthesy as ordered by the holy texts of Jews and Muslims, and so did our Christian forefathers before more enlightened generations invented some more human devices to avoid unnecessary pains.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: GUEST,Angela
Date: 02 Oct 11 - 09:50 AM

Not to make this even more confusing, but in Irish gaelic, dona means "badly." How positive is everyone that Dona Dona is Yiddish?


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: GUEST,Ruth Kevess-Cohen
Date: 15 Sep 13 - 11:28 PM

Saluton! I just discovered this thread as I recently started to learn Esperanto and was curious to know if there was an Esperanto translation of the song Dona Dona. It was my father, Arthur S. Kevess (1916-1973), who wrote the original English translation of the Yiddish song, more than 40 years ago. I remember him putting the finishing touches on his translation and singing it to us. He was thrilled when Joan Baez performed it. We are still receiving royalty statements listing performances on a regular basis all over the world. Most, if not all of the subsequent translations into other languages appear to have been based on my father's English translation; they all appear to leave the refrain "Dona Dona Dona" untranslated, which makes sense to me. I plan to search in my father's papers to see if I can find any more information on this point. If I do, I will certainly post it here.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: GUEST,Masumi
Date: 27 Nov 13 - 07:03 PM

I've known this song since Joan Baez's original, a long time ago.
Also, I've known the deep meaning of this song related to the suffering of the Jewish people under Nazi Germany.

I've been mentioning this to Japanese people since this song has been very popular in Japan and it is in many Japanese music textbooks for primary and/or secondary education.

When you copy the following Japanese word on YouTube,
ドナドナ
you'll find the Japanese version of this song.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Nov 13 - 07:22 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhiyCsZegLU


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Nov 13 - 08:16 PM

Hebrew and Yiddish songs often use those kinds of "nonsense" syllables...especially among the Hasidim, where wordless melody is central to the tradition.

The tune of "Dona, dona" is actually pretty close in idiom to a lot of nigun melodies. The words are about as far from the Hasidic worldview as you can get, though.


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