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Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?

GUEST,Angel 03 Nov 00 - 10:56 AM
tradman 03 Nov 00 - 11:06 AM
Jon W. 03 Nov 00 - 11:18 AM
mousethief 03 Nov 00 - 01:31 PM
Amos 03 Nov 00 - 02:17 PM
GUEST,LD 03 Nov 00 - 02:59 PM
mousethief 03 Nov 00 - 03:07 PM
GUEST,Bruce O. 03 Nov 00 - 03:20 PM
GUEST,LD 03 Nov 00 - 04:01 PM
Bernard 03 Nov 00 - 04:05 PM
Malcolm Douglas 03 Nov 00 - 09:53 PM
Troll 03 Nov 00 - 11:41 PM
Liz the Squeak 04 Nov 00 - 03:37 AM
GUEST 04 Nov 00 - 04:51 AM
Malcolm Douglas 04 Nov 00 - 08:12 AM
Lonesome Gillette 04 Nov 00 - 08:41 AM
tradman 04 Nov 00 - 08:00 PM
Frankham 04 Nov 00 - 08:59 PM
Malcolm Douglas 04 Nov 00 - 09:19 PM
GUEST,Philippa 22 May 02 - 06:02 PM
GUEST,Just Amy 22 May 02 - 07:53 PM
p.j. 22 May 02 - 08:05 PM
Mr Happy 23 May 02 - 07:11 AM
GUEST,Philippa 23 May 02 - 09:27 AM
greg stephens 23 May 02 - 09:39 AM
GUEST,Pinetop Slim 23 May 02 - 09:40 AM
GUEST,Philippa 23 May 02 - 12:57 PM
Mudlark 23 May 02 - 05:00 PM
GUEST,Philippa 23 May 02 - 05:05 PM
DonD 23 May 02 - 07:46 PM
Brían 24 May 02 - 10:26 AM
GUEST,Philippa 24 May 02 - 05:03 PM
GUEST,Philippa 24 May 02 - 06:33 PM
The Pooka 24 May 02 - 09:42 PM
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Subject: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: GUEST,Angel
Date: 03 Nov 00 - 10:56 AM

I am trying to get my brother into English and Irish traditional music (with some success on the Irish side). He asked me a really interesting question which had never occurred to me. He said, "Why do so many songs have whack-fol-de-day etc.?" I said my guess is that in years gone by songs were usually sung unaccompanied, and perhaps it was a way of imitating an instrument. I know, for instance, that this is exactly what a lot of mouth music is/was: diddling for dances where there were no instruments. Can one safely assume that the same is true of the odd bit of nonsensical diddling in an otherwise lyrical song? Any scholars out there?


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: tradman
Date: 03 Nov 00 - 11:06 AM

Songs in different cultures use different sets of nonsense syllables, but there seems to be a strong consistancy about which syllables are used in any given culture. I always figured it had something to do with the "sound" of the language, but I don't know of any actual studies which have been done.

In some places drums and other instruments are taught using special syllables to represent specific tones, types of beat or ornaments (India, for one). Often nonsense syllables are onamatopoetic for the sounds that instruments would make.


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: Jon W.
Date: 03 Nov 00 - 11:18 AM

Sometimes the songs are adapted from another language, and the chorus for example is left untranslated and after a generation or two becomes garbled into nonsense syllables - The many incarnations of Shule Aroon for example. Another example from African American tradition: the words "Lordy Lord" get corrupted to la-dee-da etc.

Also, along with what tradman said about drums and other instruments being taught with special syllables, I've read that during the time bagpipes were banned in Scotland (or was it harps in Ireland?), this is the way the music was preserved in the oral tradition. It's not so different than us using do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do to learn to sing.


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: mousethief
Date: 03 Nov 00 - 01:31 PM

There's a great story about the song "Goodbye" by Steam. They had recorded the song that they thought would be a hit (which I can't even remember now), and were just recording "filler" to fill out an EP or something, and they did a demo of a song that the writer hadn't finished the words to, yet. He sang "na na na" where he was intending to eventually write words. Most of us in North America have heard this song -- the Yankees and I'm told the Indians play it over the tannoy when the other team retires a pitcher:

Na na na na
Na na na na
Hey hey hey
Goodbye

Their producer heard it and liked it and said, "No, don't write any words, just leave it like that." So they did, and it became a huge hit.

I think the "fa la la la" and "hey derry dol" stuff in old songs is the same as the "hey hey hey" and "sh-boom sh-boom" is in new songs: filler. You stick it in there because you feel like you ought to sing some more but can't think of any words that fit there.

But as to some scholarly opinion, I don't have one because I'm not a scholar, just a storyteller and singer. And computer programmer but there's no need to talk about that.

Alex
O..O
=o=


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: Amos
Date: 03 Nov 00 - 02:17 PM

There are a couple of earlier threads on this theme in the archive. One point that was made is that the traidtion of hey-nonny-no's, other than just being a kind of jolly noise to decorate a story with, might have derived from translation problems from early Gaelic or Welsh songs migrating into AngloSaxon cultures.

A


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: GUEST,LD
Date: 03 Nov 00 - 02:59 PM

There's a Scots Gaelic song tradition called puirt-a-beal (mouth music) - this is primarily music for dancing to (though I've heard a theory that it originated on the islands as a way to while away the long working hours). As a result, the lyrics to such songs are only secondary; it's the RHYTHM that's the most important feature, and the lyrics are generally simplistic or nonsensical.

It seems to me that the nonsense syllables in modern traditional song serve the same kind of rhythmic purpose, asserting the music's connection with the dance tradition.

And sorry, I have to be a big music geek and say that solfege (using do-re-mi-etc.) is really very different, and not nonsense syllables at all. Each solfege syllable stands for a specific pitch in the given key, and thus has a specific theoretical relationship with every other syllable. Okay, the syllables themselves are arbitrary, but they DO stand for something.

LD


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: mousethief
Date: 03 Nov 00 - 03:07 PM

Solfeggio: They're not arbitrary; they're the first syllables of some latin or old french song, aren't they?

Or so i was taught.

Alex
O..O
=o=


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: GUEST,Bruce O.
Date: 03 Nov 00 - 03:20 PM

Sometimes its just a case that a song is written to fit the first strain of an existing tune, and the nonsense chorus is made up to fit 2nd strain, so verse plus chorus fits the whole tune.


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: GUEST,LD
Date: 03 Nov 00 - 04:01 PM

Alex-

"Solfeggio: They're not arbitrary; they're the first syllables of some latin or old french song, aren't they?"

Heck. Prob'ly. It's been so long since I studied it in college that the memories are a bit musty. It's taught using many different methods. The important part of the solfege/solfeggio method of sight-singing tho' is the concept of integrating sight reading with music theory.

Encyclopedia.com says solfege vocal exercises were invented by the Benedictine monk Guido d'Arezzo (c.990-1080).


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: Bernard
Date: 03 Nov 00 - 04:05 PM

Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong invented 'scat' singing when he forgot the words...


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 03 Nov 00 - 09:53 PM

In some cases it was a translation issue; John W mentions Shule Aroon, which is perhaps the best-known example.  In that case, older versions of the song were still extant, which made the fact clear.  It seems likely, though, that only a minority can be explained in that way; quite apart from anything else, a good many other musical traditions, including Gaelic (both Scots and Irish) and French use nonsense refrains made according to their own particular formulae; "fa la la", mind you, appears in practically every Western European tradition, and probably many others.  It may very well be related to the common -and very old- practice of singing dance-music where instruments were not available.  The use of vocables to represent the specifics of pipe music (canntaireachd) is another matter, however; it was a very specialised system of mnemonics which those who aspired to play the classical music of the pipes were expected to master, in the same way that an aspiring concert pianist learns as a matter of course to read staff notation.  Nothing to do with any bans on instruments, whether real (Ireland for a while, perhaps -I'm no expert on the history) or imagined (Scotland).   You might like to have a look at these previous discussions:

Lyr Add: Who Put the Mush?

meaning - musha ring dumma do dumma da

Help: Whack-fol-the-diddle et al.

Mouth tunes

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: Troll
Date: 03 Nov 00 - 11:41 PM

The Pipes were banned in Scotland after The '45.

troll


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 04 Nov 00 - 03:37 AM

Why not??

What has always bugged me is who DID put the bomp in the bomp du bomp du bomp.....?!

LTS


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Nov 00 - 04:51 AM

The origin of those whack-fol-de-day-isms is a very interesting question. Another is... Why were they perpetuated? Just because they sounded jolly and because everybody could get the words easily? Or, is that the reason why they were created?

I don't know?

All the best,
Dan


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 04 Nov 00 - 08:12 AM

On the subject of the pipes in the aftermath of the '45, I would recommend John G. Gibson's book, Traditional Gaelic Bagpiping, 1745 - 1945 ( McGill-Queen's University Press/ National Museums of Scotland, 1998) which comprehensively demolishes the myth that they were banned, and quotes in full the relevant legislation.  I've quoted a section from it in this thread:  MusicalBS: Bagpipes in America

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: Lonesome Gillette
Date: 04 Nov 00 - 08:41 AM

In shanties they were used during work as a rhythm thing, everyone would hoist the sail while singing Wey-hey, heave-ho, etc., so I think some of the nonsense lyrics could come from work songs. I imagine the form might be something like, verse by a solo voice, then nonsense chorus where the group does some bit of work at the same time.


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: tradman
Date: 04 Nov 00 - 08:00 PM

Do Re Mi comes from a motet by Guido d'Arezzo who started each phrase on a consecutive note of the major scale starting with "C". Actually, it was Ut,Re,Mi, and Ut is still used for the so-called 'fixed Do'. 'Do' came in later to represent a major scale where the tonic (main tonal center) could start on any note.

Sometimes nonsense syllables are used to create some sort of word game or tongue-twister as in the chorus of Jenny Jenkins or many versions of Froggie Went A-Courting (such as the "King-Kong-Kitchie" variants)


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: Frankham
Date: 04 Nov 00 - 08:59 PM

Could be that some of the variants of folk music from Ireland, America and Britain had nonsense syllables that meant something in Gaelic in earlier forms of the song.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 04 Nov 00 - 09:19 PM

It is sometimes a good idea to read a thread before posting to it.


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: GUEST,Philippa
Date: 22 May 02 - 06:02 PM

There have been several threads discussing the function and meaning of "musha ring dum a day", "whack fol the diddle", etc. Some of the messages contain suggestions that these choruses are attempted transliterations of Gaelic, or even of Pictish or Druidic tongues. One response to the mangled Gaelic theory is that several of the Gaelic language songs themselves contain vocables.
But many of the Irish and Scottish Gaelic songs themselves contain this sort of nonsense or vocable lines. As it so happens, I've typed out several lyrics today that contain untranslatable refrains - Seoithín Seo, Port Láirge, Dónall Ó Conaill, Láirín Ó Lúrtha, Fuair Mise Cuireadh, 'S ambo éara, Deoindí. [not all posted at the Cat yet] In some cases, certainly the last two songs mentioned, the refrains give a frame work to improvise lines around. In some of the songs I've mentioned the refrains are similar to the ones we get in English-language songs from Ireland, "Raics dí al" (Rex dee al), "raight [right] fol do dol dol". These songs are not that ancient, so their singers would have been familiar with English. [thread is creeping - I plan to copy this section of the discussion and add it to one of the aforementioned threads about nonsense lines]. I wonder if one of our historical or linguistic experts can come along and tell us whether the refrains of Port Láirge, Fuair Mise Cuireadh and Dónall Ó Conaill originate from Irish or English language traditions. Annraoí might have to broaden his definition of macaronic song!

The most amusing scenario would be that the Right-fol-the-dols in English-language songs were indeed mangled transliterations of real Gaelic words and then got transliterated back in a new generation of Irish-language songs. The vocables in Scottish Gaelic songs have a consistency about them and often their importance in keeping rhythm can be clearly seen; sometimes they also serve to identify the tune to be sung when the words vary (a bit like the function of the refrains in 'S ambo éara and Deoindi). When the song A' Bhean Eudach travelled from Scotland to Ireland, sometimes the Irish Gaels who were unfamiliar with the Scots refrains such as "huir í ó bhó" tried to make some sort of sense of them with lines such as "a shiúir i gceo"

further discussion welcome!


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: GUEST,Just Amy
Date: 22 May 02 - 07:53 PM

Liz

Who put the bop in the bop shu bop? Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong?


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: p.j.
Date: 22 May 02 - 08:05 PM

I just assumed the author didn't like fol-de-day and was encouraging people to take a swing at it whenever he could...


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 23 May 02 - 07:11 AM

doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy do

musha ring um do rum da, wack fol the daddy o,wack fol the daddy o

tiddley winky winky winky tiddley winky woo

with me right fol leather oh right fol leather oh right fol leather ole day fol di diddle dah fol di diddle dah with me right fol leather ole day

ying tong ying tong ying tong diddle i po

rickety tickety tin

fairy nuff


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: GUEST,Philippa
Date: 23 May 02 - 09:27 AM

This thread is mostly concerned with the "diddle-i-di", type refrains in Irish songs.
Yes, every time I see one of these "what does 'whack-fol-the diddle' mean?", "What does 'musha ring dum a dur-um' mean?" type threads –and there are many – I wonder why people versed in "sha-na-na" and "be-bop-a lu bop" think the refrains should mean something. The popularity of these threads is probably largely due to awareness that the Irish have another language and that there is a certain amount of cross-over between English and Irish languages. I should be glad of that because there are still lots of people around the world who think that "Irish" means Hiberno-English, "top of the morning" rather than "barr na maidne".

Does anyone have further insights into the refrains which are common to Irish songs whether they are in Irish or English – the 'Rex-fol-the-dol', "Right fol the dol day" type refrains.

Perhaps Mr Happy is trying to tell me something and I don't know how to translate the message!


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: greg stephens
Date: 23 May 02 - 09:39 AM

I remember vaguely some American student song inwhich the chorus Toorali oorali oorali-ay (thetune being Villikins and his Dinah) was changed into "tangent cotangent cosecant cosine".Which is, I would guess, untranslatable gibberish to 90% of English speakers. I'm definitely with the "relics of ancient languages" school of thought. Much more romantic.


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: GUEST,Pinetop Slim
Date: 23 May 02 - 09:40 AM

For what it's worth, if anything, there seem to be regional preferences in trad scat. The first version I heard of "Sourwood Mountain" had a refrain of "hey ho diddle um day." Later, I heard I.D. Stamper sing it as "hey de-ing dang diddle um day."


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: GUEST,Philippa
Date: 23 May 02 - 12:57 PM

There's even national or regional variations in lilting a tune - for instances when you're just singing a tune with no words as such would you tend to go "la, la, la" or "di diddle de"

You may be confused by a reference to thread creep in my message of 22-May-02 . This is the thread which I re-pasted the discussion into and I forgot to remove the now irrelevant sentence in the brackets.

LD, 03-Nov-00, wrote There's a Scots Gaelic song tradition called puirt-a-beal (mouth music) - this is primarily music for dancing to (though I've heard a theory that it originated on the islands as a way to while away the long working hours).
This "theory" is a confusion between the mouth music songs for dancing and the waulking songs for group work fulling tweed. The latter have very regular alternating refrain lines and the function is not dissimilar to the refrains in shanties. And yes, the singing did keep up the spirits of the women as they worked. I have spoken to women in the Western Isles of Scotland who waulked tweed when they were young and although the work itself was tedious, they enjoyed the social aspect of the work.

This thread has several good contributions already, but I shall plug away until someone has more to say about the rex-fols that are found in both Irish and English language songs!


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: Mudlark
Date: 23 May 02 - 05:00 PM

I've often wondered if nonsense syllables, which often provide rhythm and/or bridge to next verse were used to give the audience something to sing along to. Even real words used in a nonsense way, as in Strawberry Faire..."singing, singing, buttercups and daisies." It's just fun to sing, trips off the tongue... Or, as in Swt Betsy from Pike, a refrain that everybody could sing along with even if they were hearing the tune for the first time. Audience participation is an age-old method of insuring a good reception and tips...


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: GUEST,Philippa
Date: 23 May 02 - 05:05 PM

Aren't the fol-the-diddle-fol-the -day type refrains also found in songs from England?


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: DonD
Date: 23 May 02 - 07:46 PM

Wa sm I getting vibes from a thread or threads that I'd never seen, or do great minds ..., or is the subject just so general in its interest, but -- I was considering what I thought would be a new thread about these 'nonsense' vocalizations.

My concern is why certain refrains have become so firmly associated with particulat songs? Oh the diddley umtidah oh teh didley umtydah oh the di dy diddle-e-i-ay just can't be substituted arbitratily for whack fol the daddy oh, etc. etc. Can you imagine anyone presuming to sing a string of diddleys and then 'whisky in the jar'? I think not!

Who categorized the diddleys and the whacks, and when? Clancy/Makem tapes are my gospel, but I know they didn't originate the refrains.

If I left my typos without fixing them, they'd make a good set of refrains themselves.


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: Brían
Date: 24 May 02 - 10:26 AM

Well, how about this refrain:

Whiskey ó roudeldum row
Whiskey ó roudeldum cailleachaí
Whiskey ó roudeldum row
Bainne na ngabhar 's é a theannadh léi.

Which translates, roughly to:

Whiskey ó roudeldum row
Whiskey ó roudeldum old women
Whiskey ó roudledum row
Goat's milk, and ply her with it.

THE WHOLE SONG WAY AT THE BOTTOM OF THE DARN PAGE
And also the thread on THE HERRING SONG Where there is a lively disscussion about the meaning of the phrase aber-um-vane and aber-o-ling with a suggestion by Malcolm that it may have been Sing thugamar fein an samhra linn, or 'Tis we have brought the summer in.

Some of these refrains do seem to have had a little more meaning at some time. I may be stepping out on a limb, but Wack fol-the daddy -o could easily be a Mhaic-Ó The daddy-o, or Oh son, the daddy oh.

Brían


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: GUEST,Philippa
Date: 24 May 02 - 05:03 PM

Good point, DonD. Usually the refrains are very specific for each song. The singer may have minor variations in wording in the rest of the song, or might improvise, but the vocables don't vary. These are the bits that often everybody joins in on. On the one hand, as a rule everyone should be singing the same thing when they singing together. On the other hand, I think it is more often the rule in folklore and linguistics that the more words or phrases or songs are used/widespread, the more they are subject to variation.

I already pointed out the aspect of everyone singing the refrains together. Another point is that often these refrains have strong catchy sounds and are a focal point of the song. When I think of the SOUNDs of the likes of
I'll tell you a tale of peace and love
Whack fol the diddle of the di do day
Of the land that rules all lands above
Whack fol the diddle of the di do day
She gently raised us from the slime
And kept our hands from hellish crime
And she sent us to heaven in our own good time!
Whack fol the diddle of the di do day
or
I counted out the money and it made a pretty penny
I put it in my pocket and gave it to my Jenny
She sighed and she swore that she never would betray me
But the devil take the women for they never can be easy!
Musha durum durum da, whack fol the daddy o
Whack fol the daddy o, there's whisky in the jar
it seems largely the nonsense words that stand out with a vigourous sound.

I do know a different chorus to Whisky in the Jar, but that version of the song goes to a different tune altogether. John Lorne Campbell had a theory concerning the choruses in Gaelic songs, especially Scottish waulking songs, that the vocables identified what tune the song should be sung to (often a new song is put to an old tune, and in waulking songs there is a lot of improvisation).

I have attended a number of singing workshops led by native Gaelic speakers. Every one of them was very insistent that the "u-bhi-a-bhi", "hi-ro-hi-ro" etc. was sung exactly as taught. This is not just to keep a particular group together, as different singers will maintain these same choruses for any given song.

Ironically, as a Gaelic learner, I often found the vocables harder to get a hang of than Gaelic words which I could recognise and therefore interpret and remember.


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: GUEST,Philippa
Date: 24 May 02 - 06:33 PM

In my previous message, I should have pointed out the importance of vocables in denoting rhythm as well as tune.

I notice sometimes American versions of songs have refrains that sound like muddled Latin (an echo of the macaronic songs?? - - I'm trying to entice Annraoi to this thread)

I had four brothers over the sea
Peri meri dinctum dominee
Each one sent a present unto me;
Portum, quantum perry dee centum
Peri meri dinctum dominee

Old Bangum
There is a wild boar in these woods,
Dillom dom dillom
He eats our flesh and drinks our blood,
Tum a qui quiddle quo qum.


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Subject: RE: Diddle-e-i-di-di - WHY?
From: The Pooka
Date: 24 May 02 - 09:42 PM

Greg Stephens, "tangent cotangent cosecant cosine" --*LOL*
Now *that's* mouth-music.

DonD - Blessed is he whose Clancy/Makem tapes are his gospel. And no, ye certainly cannot have a "string of diddleys" with yer Whiskey. The very idea! / On the other hand,

Too ra loo ra loo, too ra loo ra lay
Too ra loo ra loo, too ra loo ra lay
A small bird sat on an ivy bunch
And the song he sang was the Jug of Punch

is acceptable.


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