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Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music

GUEST,AwenDawn 26 Jan 09 - 04:35 PM
Richard Bridge 26 Jan 09 - 04:40 PM
Richard Bridge 26 Jan 09 - 04:41 PM
MartinRyan 26 Jan 09 - 05:50 PM
matt milton 26 Jan 09 - 05:51 PM
Richard Mellish 26 Jan 09 - 06:27 PM
MartinRyan 26 Jan 09 - 06:33 PM
Joe Offer 26 Jan 09 - 07:52 PM
Malcolm Douglas 26 Jan 09 - 09:40 PM
GUEST,AwenDawn 26 Jan 09 - 11:27 PM
Mr Happy 27 Jan 09 - 04:28 AM
Darowyn 27 Jan 09 - 04:32 AM
TheSnail 27 Jan 09 - 04:36 AM
Bryn Pugh 27 Jan 09 - 04:48 AM
Suegorgeous 27 Jan 09 - 05:38 AM
MartinRyan 27 Jan 09 - 05:46 AM
Richard Bridge 27 Jan 09 - 05:50 AM
Mr Happy 27 Jan 09 - 06:04 AM
TheSnail 27 Jan 09 - 06:27 AM
Darowyn 27 Jan 09 - 08:22 AM
Bryn Pugh 27 Jan 09 - 08:26 AM
Malcolm Douglas 27 Jan 09 - 09:30 AM
GUEST,leeneia 27 Jan 09 - 11:12 AM
Malcolm Douglas 27 Jan 09 - 11:36 AM
The Sandman 27 Jan 09 - 12:15 PM
GUEST,Russ 27 Jan 09 - 01:11 PM
Steve Gardham 27 Jan 09 - 04:24 PM
Declan 28 Jan 09 - 03:00 AM
Snuffy 28 Jan 09 - 04:11 AM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 28 Jan 09 - 12:59 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 28 Jan 09 - 01:09 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 28 Jan 09 - 01:21 PM
Stringsinger 28 Jan 09 - 02:30 PM
john f weldon 28 Jan 09 - 02:38 PM
Steve Gardham 28 Jan 09 - 05:08 PM
Ref 28 Jan 09 - 05:11 PM
MartinRyan 28 Jan 09 - 06:56 PM
Steve Gardham 28 Jan 09 - 07:11 PM
MartinRyan 29 Jan 09 - 02:59 AM
Bryn Pugh 29 Jan 09 - 05:13 AM
bubblyrat 29 Jan 09 - 12:41 PM
Joe Offer 29 Jan 09 - 11:09 PM
open mike 30 Jan 09 - 03:20 AM
GUEST 06 Apr 09 - 02:12 PM
GUEST,leeneia 07 Apr 09 - 12:16 PM
Artful Codger 10 Apr 09 - 12:33 AM
GUEST 10 Apr 09 - 01:36 AM
mousethief 03 Jul 10 - 11:30 PM
Jack Campin 04 Jul 10 - 03:21 AM
Paul Burke 04 Jul 10 - 01:58 PM
Don Firth 04 Jul 10 - 03:08 PM
Kent Davis 05 Jul 10 - 12:15 AM
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Subject: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk musi
From: GUEST,AwenDawn
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 04:35 PM

Why do so many folk songs have nonsensical refrains.


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk musi
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 04:40 PM

Because once upon a time not everybody was in the drains bust.


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk musi
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 04:41 PM

And who put the bomp in the bomp-she-bomp-she-bomp anyway?


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk musi
From: MartinRyan
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 05:50 PM

Cheap choruses, basically.

That said, a look around a few threads here will show you that people often hate to admit that some refrains are, in fact, nonsensical! Much more likely that they're the remnants of wicked spells, secret political messages, love charms, ads for selling herbs.... ;>)

Regards


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk mu
From: matt milton
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 05:51 PM

I often think the nonsense refrains of folk songs sound quite sexual, albeit in a rather regressive and crude and childlike way. So often they start with a "With my..." (ie "with me rum tum tiddle dee..." et al). Lots of words that sound like fiddle and diddle and bum and titty.


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk musi
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 06:27 PM

Refrains can mutate from sense to nonsense or vice versa.

For example, the Geordie version of The Herring has "How are ye the deea" x 3, but a version from the NE of Scotland (as sung by Isla St Clair - dunno who she got it from) has "Falalalido" x 3, which does bear some resemblance in sound and which I therefore suspect results from corruption of the Geordie version.

Part of the chorus of "Nutting Girl" is generally sung "Whack fol the dear oh day" (approximately) but can be "Wait for the dear all day" which actually makes sense.

Richard


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk musi
From: MartinRyan
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 06:33 PM

Yes, what makes sense in one place or time may not make sense in another - and sometimes gets corrupted into nonsense.

Regards


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Joe Offer
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 07:52 PM

Sometimes, they seem to be "mouth music," like a vocal intrumental break that allows for some improvisation; oftentimes they're tricky enough to show off the virtuosity of the person who can actually remember the refrain...and sometimes, they are used to, er, "arouse" the imagination...

"Jenny Jenkins" seems like such a simple, fun song to sing - but I'm not yet man enough to master the chorus. Some year, I'd get it down.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 09:40 PM

The question comes up here from time to time. See, for example:

Help: Whack-fol-the-diddle et al.
meaning - musha ring dumma do dumma da
Origins: Musha ringum duram da...
Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?

On the whole, the same answers come up each time; though there are always a few people with pet theories ranging from fairly sensible to barking mad, so treat it all with caution. Although there are special cases ('Shule Aroon' is one) most of what looks like nonsense now started out as nonsense (or, if you prefer, meaningless vocables) - spend some time looking through collections like Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads, for instance, and you'll see what I mean.

As for why; well, much of the time it's just because that's one of the formulae people used when writing songs intended for the popular market, some of which we now think of as 'folk songs'. As Richard Bridge pointed out earlier (if a little cryptically) it still is.


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: GUEST,AwenDawn
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 11:27 PM

I want to thank all of you for you replies. They were very helpful. I thought also that that the melody might of come before the song and these nonsense words help keep the melody in ones mind. Again, Thanks. Namaste, Awen


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Mr Happy
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 04:28 AM

..............its not just in folk!

Do wah diddy diddy etc!


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk mu
From: Darowyn
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 04:32 AM

A few hypotheses:-
Some of them are phonetic approximations of words in other languages. e.g. Shool Aroon.
Some are part of the stylistic fashion of the day. e.g. "Boop-a-doop" in the twenties, adding an "O" to the end of words in folk, or "Yeah yeah" in the sixties.
Some are an attempt to convey an instrumental accompaniment. e.g. "Whop bop-a-loo-mop a lop bam boom" (Little Richard's indication of how the drum fill should go)
Some are vocables- sung syllables with no meaning. e.g. the "hey yah hey ya" used in a lot of native American chants, in Scat singing and Mouth Music.
It's down to individual cases after that.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: TheSnail
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 04:36 AM

As I think I may have said before -

Wop-bop-a-loo-mop alop-bom-bom
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Awop-bop-a-loo-mop alop bom bom


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 04:48 AM

Richard asked : "Who put the 'bomp' in the bomp-she-bomp-she-bomp ?"

I believe it might have been the same person who put the ram in the ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong.

It might also have been the songwriter who wrote the immortal "Sh-Boom".


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 05:38 AM

It's Siul a ruin, which aren't nonsensical words. Never seen it misspelt as Shool aroon before!


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: MartinRyan
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 05:46 AM

Suegorgeous

Never seen it misspelt as Shool aroon before

Exactly! In fact it turns up with quite a range of phonetic spellings. It's a bit harsh, in reality, to call them "mispellings" since they're not attempting to be Gaelic (where spelling has also been known to vary!).

Regards


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 05:50 AM

Did he put the dip in the dip-de-dip-de-dip as well? And do we love him from the bottom of our boogedy, boogedy, shu?


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Mr Happy
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 06:04 AM

..dum dum dum dummy doo wah
yay yay yay yay yeah
wo wo wo wo wo wah
only the unintelligible!!


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: TheSnail
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 06:27 AM

With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,

William Shakespeare


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk mu
From: Darowyn
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 08:22 AM

I missed one out.
Sometimes they are coy double entendres or interrupted rhymes, where the topic is thought to be risque. e.g. almost anything by Rambling Sid Rumpo.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 08:26 AM

Richard : of course.

Has anyone done the ooby dooby a la Roy Orbison, recently ?


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 09:30 AM

Re. 'Shule/Shool/Siúl/'Siúbhail' (and other spellings). Although fairly peripheral to the original question, the issue of 'correctness' does come up from time to time, and may as well be addressed now so that we all know what terms of reference we are using.

Admittedly more usually spelled 'Shule' (as in my post), you will nevertheless find the word rendered 'shool' in plenty of collections of songs from oral tradition if you explore the subject a little. As 'Shule Aroon', it appeared in songsters and on broadsides from the 19th century onwards; the later ones were chiefly American compilations on the lines of Six Hundred and Seventeen Irish Songs and Ballads [1898], but you'll also find it spelled that way in Irish publications; similarly with its relative 'Shule Agrah' (see Bodleian, Shule Agrah for a broadside by Haly of Cork which prints the interleaved refrain as 'Shule, Shule, Shule agrah' ... 'Gudhe tough, gudhe, tough, slaun'.

You won't find 'Siúl', which is modern 'Reformed Spelling', in pre-20th century examples; the older Irish spelling was Siúbhail, though it should be noted that non-standard forms were also common. 'Correctness' depends ultimately on context and usage, and here we are talking about a song widely circulated among people who didn't speak Gaelic themselves and -in the case of the majority of non-Irish singers- may never have heard that language spoken at all, so the refrain was rendered more-or-less phonetically, examples varying from reasonably close approximations to such as 'Ish come bibble ahly boo so real' (Arkansas) and 'Shall, shall, shally wiggle round' (Ozarks).

All this has been gone into in minute detail in previous discussions, and it would be redundant to repeat it all here. The most informative thread is probably Lyr Req: Suil a Ruin [1998-2008]: see in particular contributions from the late Bruce Olson. Read a little of those and you will see why I referred to the song as 'a special case' : it is an example of the relatively small category where what are now indisputably 'nonsense refrains' are demonstrably corrupted forms of phrases that originally made perfect sense. This is a small group. Attempts are frequently made (often based on the misapprehension that, because a few songs like this one can be explained, the same principles can be applied universally) to rationalise what are mere vocables as corruptions of all manner of things, but most of these, though frequently ingenious, are so anachronistic as to fall at the first fence.

Most of the contributions to this discussion so far seem to be repetitions of what has already been said in others, but I predicted that. It isn't surprising; there isn't much to say on the subject that would be new. My own comments above are also not new, of course. I make them only to clear up, so far as is possible, an issue raised which itself is not new (see, for example, Help: Suil A Ruin, correct spelling?, which also contains a range of dissenting opinions).


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 11:12 AM

Our knowledge of folk music goes back a few centuries. In that time, thousands of people have sung them to many, many tunes. Given that, there are going to be a lot of different reasons for nonsense rhymes.

Good reasons have been given so far - to imitate foreign language, to imitate an instrument, to provide an easy chorus. Another reason is that a pre-exising tune is longer than the new lyrics, so nonsense syllables are used to fill it out.

And finally, let's not forget that it's fun to do.


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 11:36 AM

Actually, that last point is probably the most important one; and the main reason why writers of modern popular song still do it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 12:15 PM

its better than Rhubarb, rhubarb.


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 01:11 PM

And now for something completely different.

PURE SPECULATION

Some of the songs with nonsense refrains might be holdovers from a purely oral tradition.

Think of a ballad as a data-stream.

data - there was a lady lived in york
end of data marker - all alee and lonely
data - fell in love with her father's clerk
end of data marker - down by the greenwood sideo

The refrains mark the end of a data transmission.
Also gives the singer a chance to remember the next item of data for transmission.

Each verse-refrain combination is a complete packet that breaks down into four pieces.

This consistency of structure plus rhyme plus meter would help the singer remember and sing the song.

Russ (Permanent GUEST and serious NERD)


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 04:24 PM

Russ,
That is one quite likely explanation, particularly where the refrain interrupts couplets or where a lot of repetition occurs. It has been shown by Albert Lord and suggested by David Buchan among others that prior to literate society and widespread printing, singers did not all memorise set texts but had the story or theme of the song, and a whole stock of commonplace phrases, stanzas, expressions etc and they recomposed the song every time they sang it. I have tried this and it works. For those not as adept at this the use of a repeated refrain and repeated lines would have given time to compose the next verse.

However by far the greatest reason for nonsense refrains in more recent times (last 400 years) is they're easy to do and an accepted practice in almost all types of music. Much easier to throw in a nonsense line than have to compose something that makes sense.


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Declan
Date: 28 Jan 09 - 03:00 AM

WHy do people need there to be a point to everything? Especially to nonsense?


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Snuffy
Date: 28 Jan 09 - 04:11 AM

Ken Lee tulibu dibu douchu


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 28 Jan 09 - 12:59 PM

It can't be too big a stretch to include some discussion of "scat" singing, confined principally to jazz. Louis Armstrong, Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald and many other noted singers did their own variations. Is there any relationship between this "nonsense," and that which we see in folk music?


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 28 Jan 09 - 01:09 PM

maybe a lot of old trad songs were composed for and by toddlers !!!???


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 28 Jan 09 - 01:21 PM

or to put it a more clever way..
[my mrs is an infant school teacher]

to what extent may children have played a part in the transmission
and 'corruption' of songs
within families and communities
from one generation to another...???

[thank you mrs punkfolkrocker]


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk mu
From: Stringsinger
Date: 28 Jan 09 - 02:30 PM

In the case of traditional folk music from Appalachia and in some instances African-American early folk music, the nonsense words may have emanated from a bastardized gaelic which found it's way into American songs. The Minstrel show employs these silly words which have lost their original meaning in gaelic.

"Bobba-link-a-die-do, king kong kitchie kitchie ki-me-o" et. al may be the earlier gaelic
equivalent of "Mairsy Doats".

Ssgr


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk mu
From: john f weldon
Date: 28 Jan 09 - 02:38 PM

Briefly: Nonsense is Fun.


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 28 Jan 09 - 05:08 PM

Stringsinger,
Your Bobba-link is just as nonsensical in many of its British versions
Jim Eldon...Frog and Mouse
Koy-man-ero
kil kil kero, koy-manero-koy-me
Plim slam slam-a-diddle I'm a bull-a-ring-dum ling dum bulla-diddle koy me.


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Ref
Date: 28 Jan 09 - 05:11 PM

Some are just "mouth music" as cited above, but I've wondered for a long time if some of the classic Irish refrains aren't corruptions of Gaelic phrases. Any Gaelic scholars here?


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: MartinRyan
Date: 28 Jan 09 - 06:56 PM

Ref

It happens occasionally - as with "Shule aroon", discussed earlier. Each case has to be looked at individually and a rational case argued as to how it might have happened. Got any particular examples in mind?

Regards


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 28 Jan 09 - 07:11 PM

Gaelic song has had very little influence on the English language songs. Just a handful of macaronic songs have come through into the English language, songs like Suil Agrah, but even that song has English origins in most of its verses. Gaelic and English language song have so little in common that it's not surprising there is only minimal crossover. Any crossover is more likely to be found in Gaelic-speaking parts of Canada than the British Isles.


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: MartinRyan
Date: 29 Jan 09 - 02:59 AM

Steve

Gaelic song has had very little influence on the English language songs.

I dunno.... (Irish) Gaelic song has had considerable influence on English language songs in Ireland through verse forms, rhyming schemes, use of Hiberno-English, phonetic carry-over (as discussed here) - and the rather specialist case of true macaronics. Its impact on English language singing globally is, of course, much less.

Regards


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 29 Jan 09 - 05:13 AM

The reference to 'Frog and Mouse' above reminded me of the version

(Frog he would a-wooing ride)
learned, I am sure, in 'Singing Together' when Adam was in Babygros :-)

The Frog he would a wooing ride,
Whipsey diddle dee dandy dee (bis)
The Frog he would a wooing ride
With sword and buckler by his side
With a harum scarum diddlum darum
Whipsey diddle dee dandy dee.

Nonsense in other Celtic languages, too - the Welsh song "Migildi Magildi, Now, now, now" ?

Old Jack Braddlum ? 'Hey ! What country folks we be'.

Fal dee roo dee lam tam
Too lee riddle dee
Trillam tam tillam tah-nee
Praising loud the evergreen,
The tree whose name is the Holly.

I can't see what the point is in any of these, only (as someone observed earlier) that they are fun to sing.


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: bubblyrat
Date: 29 Jan 09 - 12:41 PM

I used to do an Irish song with the chorus ;
With me in-twing-of -an-in-thing-of- an-ido,
With-me-in-twing-of-an-in-thing-of-an-iday-ay,
   With me roo-boo-boo-roo-boo-boo-randy,
   And me lab-stone keeps beatin' away.

       Or something like that.Nobody ever asked what it meant,which was just as well,really.

    As to the Shakespearian one mentioned earlier---well,it's pure Anglo -Saxon filth. "Nonney" is an Old English word for a part of the female anatomy.In this case,we have an archetypal lusty English farm labourer,tending the fields with his agricultural implement ( viz,a hoe),who fortuitously (or otherwise) encounters a fair maiden taking the morning sunshine with skirts immodestly lifted,laying in a hay-stack.Siezed with uncontrollable urges upon sighting the Furry Purse, he exclaims " Whither Hay ! And a Hoe ( euphemism) And a --Hey ! Nonney ! -----to which the reply is "No !" or "KNOW !" (biblical) depending on the time of the month.
                  We all know that (in England,anyway).


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Joe Offer
Date: 29 Jan 09 - 11:09 PM

Whoe was that man?
I'd like to shake his hand.
He made my baby fall in love with me...


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: open mike
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 03:20 AM

tonite i just sang along with an entire auditorium of folks with
a song about the rivrs of texas...the brazos river among them
and the chorus goes:
li la la lee, give me your hand,
li la la lee, give me your hand,
li la la lee, give me your hand,
there's many a river that waters the land.


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk mu
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Apr 09 - 02:12 PM

I once taught a folk song to a group of college students orally. The actual text is: "Take some flour in half an hour and bake a cake for Charlie." By the time I taught them the game and stepped back to listen, they were singing, "Take a shower in half an hour, I've got a date with Charlie."

Now I always have to think for a minute to remember which version is correct! :-)


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 07 Apr 09 - 12:16 PM

I still remember a night 40 years ago when I group of us were singing together. Then a woman seized center stage and started singing a depressing ballad of 24 verses or so. I resented that. I wanted to sing!

One reason for nonsense refrains is to prevent this sort of resentment by giving everybody a chance to sing.

Come to think of it, sensible refrains do the same, but they are more work to compose.


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Artful Codger
Date: 10 Apr 09 - 12:33 AM

Nonsense refrains are encrypted song worms. On April 20th, they are programmed to decrypt themselves and leach all useful knowledge from our brains. Fortunately, most of us have none.


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Apr 09 - 01:36 AM

"And who put the bomp in the bomp-she-bomp-she-bomp anyway?"

Louie the Knife.


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: mousethief
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 11:30 PM

Resurrecting and dusting off this old codger to ask if anybody knows anything about nonsense words in non-English songs? I believe Italian madrigals have some fa-la-la-la going on, and I know the German song "Ein Mann der Sich Columbus Nannt" which goes something like this :

Ein Mann der sich Columbus nannt, widde widde witt bum bum
War in der Schiffahrt wohlbekannt, widde widde witt bum bum
Es drückten ihn die Sorgen schwer, er suchte neues Land im Meer
Gloria Victoria, widde widde witt juchheirassa
Gloria Victoria, widde widde witt bum bum

I also found a very serious scholarly website about nonsense syllables in early Greek and Byzantine music!

So is this universal, throughout the world? Are there songs with nonsense syllables in Thai and in Mandarin and in Swahili and in Spanish as well?

Maybe some of our Mudcatters have been around the world and can report back on nonsense syllables in world folk music?


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 03:21 AM

I think I've mentioned this in another thread on this subject, but the language with the largest number of syninyms for "hey nony no" has to be Kurdish. "le" and "wey lo" are two such. Here's the opening verse of a Kurdish song. Actual words in caps:

le le le le le LI MINE le le LI MI le le le LI MINE le le LI MINE
le le LI MINE le le LI MINE le le LI MINE le le LI MINE
de le le LI MINE le le LI MINE le le LI MINE le le LI MINE
GULE SE QACAXA DIGOTA HEY LA LI MIN DERANE e------ wey lo.

or another chorus (self-explanatory):

wi delil delil delil delil delil delil
delil delil delil delil delil delil
delil delil delil delil delil delil
delil delil delil delil delilo dilo

Turkish, on the other hand, uses almost none. You get "aman aman" (which means anything from "hey!" to "I got the blues real bad") "hey dost" ("yeah, friend") and that's about it. Turkish songs are solid chunks of meaning.


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Paul Burke
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 01:58 PM

You get "aman aman" (which means anything from "hey!" to "I got the blues real bad")

The Kurdish equivalent of the Yiddish "Oy!" perhaps?


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Don Firth
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 03:08 PM

I haven't read all the posts, or the other threads linked to, that thoroughly, but I'll jump in with both feet.

One theory I heard, advanced by Dr. David C. Fowler, (University of Washington English professor and author of several books on early English Literature, including one on balladry) when I was taking a course in "The Popular Ballad" from him, was that the nonsense syllables in many older songs and ballads may have originally been in Latin and possibly had some religious reference, and subsequent singers, not understanding the language, "folk processed" them into nonsense syllables. Or may have been an attempt by non-Latin speakers to imitate Latin choruses they heard in church.

Same with words originally in other languages, Gaelic and derivative languages certainly sound plausible.

Some of it, I'm don't doubt, is pure nonsense "fill," a la mouth music or scat-singing.

I don't think any one theory applies to all nonsense choruses. Maybe some each and a bit of all.

Don Firth

P. S. Then, of course, there are some choruses or refrains that are not nonsense syllables, but don't really relate to anything in the song or ballad. For example:
She leaned her back against a thorn,
Fine flowers in the valley,
And there her little babe was born,
And the green grass it grows rarely.

(Version of The Cruel Mother, Child #20)
It does serve the function of filling out the song, adding a bit of suspense, and generally enhancing the somewhat eerie supernatural nature of the song.


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Subject: RE: Origins: point of nonsensical refrain folk music
From: Kent Davis
Date: 05 Jul 10 - 12:15 AM

One function of nonsense refrains, in funny songs, is to give the audience a chance to laugh without drowning out the next line.

Kent


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