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Lyric drift.

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THE BALLAD OF LADY MONDEGREEN


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Shula 08 May 01 - 06:40 AM
Dave the Gnome 08 May 01 - 08:37 AM
MMario 08 May 01 - 08:55 AM
Dave the Gnome 08 May 01 - 09:15 AM
MMario 08 May 01 - 09:18 AM
Fibula Mattock 08 May 01 - 09:24 AM
Dave the Gnome 08 May 01 - 09:38 AM
Fibula Mattock 08 May 01 - 09:40 AM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 08 May 01 - 10:22 AM
Lyndi-loo 08 May 01 - 10:35 AM
MMario 08 May 01 - 10:44 AM
Grab 08 May 01 - 12:57 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 08 May 01 - 02:37 PM
Bert 08 May 01 - 02:41 PM
MMario 08 May 01 - 02:44 PM
Geoff the Duck 08 May 01 - 02:52 PM
GUEST,Karen 08 May 01 - 03:02 PM
Chicken Charlie 08 May 01 - 07:10 PM
John Hardly 08 May 01 - 10:10 PM
LR Mole 09 May 01 - 11:31 AM
Kim C 09 May 01 - 11:41 AM
MMario 09 May 01 - 11:46 AM
Wolfgang 09 May 01 - 12:00 PM
bill\sables 09 May 01 - 12:04 PM
Steve Parkes 09 May 01 - 12:18 PM
Boab 10 May 01 - 04:13 AM
McGrath of Harlow 10 May 01 - 01:53 PM
Don Firth 10 May 01 - 02:21 PM
Bill D 10 May 01 - 02:35 PM
UB Ed 10 May 01 - 03:09 PM
Shula 11 May 01 - 04:52 AM
Shula 11 May 01 - 04:52 AM
Shula 11 May 01 - 04:52 AM
Shula 11 May 01 - 05:28 AM
Dave the Gnome 11 May 01 - 05:54 AM
Bill D 11 May 01 - 08:59 AM
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Subject: Lyric drift.
From: Shula
Date: 08 May 01 - 06:40 AM

Dear Folks,

I was re-reading some old threads and a couple of them suggested a useful idea. Over time, or geographical and cultural "travel," as meanings change, or lose historical connection for the current generation of singers, folk music lyrics sometimes "drift." That is, when the tension created by having fewer and fewer hearers understand a word or phrase well enough to get the sense of it, changes are made to accomodate the times. Suppose we collected as many of these discarded words/phrases, (with glosses), as possible in this thread? It could be both informative and entertaining, doncha think? (Forgive me if someone else has attempted to gather a substantial number of these in one thread.)

I'll start:

In the children's song, "This Old Man," I have sometimes heard substitutions for "Pate" ("head", a word unfamiliar to children in the U.S. for at least a couple of generations, now.

In a thread on the "Blue Ridge Mountain Blues," we discussed the probable substitution of the name "Gray," for a dog, whose likely original moniker was "Trey." Few persons unacquainted with hounds would understand what was lost in this substitution.

In a thread on "Loch Lomond" I had my misunderstanding of the word "greetin'" corrected: it means "crying" or "grieving" in Scots. I had never heard the original version of the song -- Perhaps there were substitute lyrics introduced when it left Scotland.

I know more of these, but that's a start. Some of these "drifts" have arisen for reasons that take a nice comic turn in the telling. Anyone else want to share a few?

Shalom,

Shula


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 08 May 01 - 08:37 AM

A good friend of ours who shall remain nameless to protect her from further embassasment has recored a song written by another good friend, Pete Ryder.

In the song Pete refers to drinking that fine sippin' stuff from the west side of the Atlantic, Wild Turkey. In the cover version our friend, not being a heavy drinker or aquainted with the niceties of booze, calls it 'Wild Turtle'.

Pete has not been able to sing the original since without bursting into fits of giggles:-)

Another thing I noticed on a wider scale is that in the excelent TV series about the Napoleopnic wars 'Sharpe', John Tams, who plays a character called Hagman, sings 'King George commands and we obey, over the hills and far away'. This fits in with the series but I reckon in years to come this will become the standard rather than the 'Queen Anne commands...etc' that I learned it as.

Possibly interesting thread, Shula.

Cheers

Dave the Gnome


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: MMario
Date: 08 May 01 - 08:55 AM

I wish I had enough knowledge to do this properly. The one lyric drift that has struck me in recent years is in "Wild Mountain Thyme" - I learned it, and heard it for years with "If my true love were to leave me, I could surely find another" until one day a friend mispoke while singing it and it came out "If my true love were to leave me I would surely find no other" this simple change revamped the whole song for me.


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 08 May 01 - 09:15 AM

And we sing 'surely find her mother':-) But as we also sing it with actions you can probably guess we do not have serious intent.

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: MMario
Date: 08 May 01 - 09:18 AM

not sure if I want to know the rest of the lyrics for that version or not, Dave.


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Fibula Mattock
Date: 08 May 01 - 09:24 AM

actions please! Oh pleeeease!!


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 08 May 01 - 09:38 AM

Now, now, Fibula. This is lyric drift not thread drift! Make up your own actions or come to Swinton;-)

Going back on topic btw there was a thread I started when I was first on Mudcat about mis-interpreted lyrics. They are apparantly called 'mondegreens' after a Scottish newspaper reported listed some lyrics as 'They have slain the Earl of Morray (sp?) and Lady Mondegreen' Funny thing is I asked what a 'Mondelawn' was that is what I thought I had heard! A mis-interpretation of a mis-interpretation. Wonder how often that happens!

Oh-oh, me ears are alight...

DtG


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Fibula Mattock
Date: 08 May 01 - 09:40 AM

bah!


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 08 May 01 - 10:22 AM

MMario, I don't know where your friend heard that change, but I know for certain that Jack Langstaff of Revels deliberately sang "surely find no other" because he liked it better that way!


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Lyndi-loo
Date: 08 May 01 - 10:35 AM

Weird and wonderful misheard lyrics can be found at http://www.amiright.com/misheard/index.shtml

One day I'm going to learn how to do blue clicky things


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: MMario
Date: 08 May 01 - 10:44 AM

Animaterra - Well - so do I - now...


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Grab
Date: 08 May 01 - 12:57 PM

The whole House of the Rising Sun thing - a woman's song, adapted by Leadbelly, adapted by the Animals, and sung that way by everyone and his dog ever since. Ditto Whiskey in the Jar, which changes the entire story.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 08 May 01 - 02:37 PM

Sometimes the singer's diction (or the recording engineers lack of knowledge) causes changes. In "The L&N Don't Stop..." I sing, "Now they're standin rusty, rollin empty." People listen to the record, and sing what they heard, "Now they're standin rusty, rowed-up empty," or, "Now they're standin in a rusty row all empty," or I've even heard, "Now they're canned 'n musty, more are empty." This could be cured by included printed lyrics with the recording. Probably the singer's diction shouldn't be messed with- it'd take the "folk" out of it.


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Bert
Date: 08 May 01 - 02:41 PM

Well you just wanna learn to SING ky meluv. *EVIL GRIN*

Bert, ducking and running


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: MMario
Date: 08 May 01 - 02:44 PM

hee-hee! yup! I learned "The L&N Don't...etc" from a group that definately sings "Now they're standin in a rusty row all empty,"


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 08 May 01 - 02:52 PM

Friends of mine used to have a regular bit of a gathering at each others houses, including a meal and a sing. One of them typed up some song sheets which were full of typing errors. Eventually they started singing what was typed rather than what the words should have been.
This led to lines such as "I don't want a harp or a haloo, not me" in Fiddlers Green.


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: GUEST,Karen
Date: 08 May 01 - 03:02 PM

I "get the drift" of why lyrics are changing but I think it's sad in many cases. What's wrong with children learning the meaning of the word "pate"? I've increased my vocabulary from listening to old folk songs over the years and I now see my children doing the same. It can only be a benefit to a rounded-out education.


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Chicken Charlie
Date: 08 May 01 - 07:10 PM

I have heard that in the original wording, Casey Jones's locomotive was described as a "six-eight wheeler of mighty fame." That derived from locos/hogs being classed by the number of bogeys and then the number of drive wheels. As trains gave way to planes, that commonly became "on a big eight-wheeler" instead. (Course the railroad fanatics complicated this by saying nobody ever built a 6-8 hog, but regardless of that, the intent of the writer was changed by those not as familiar with the argot.

I know there have to be many, many more such things out there.

CC


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: John Hardly
Date: 08 May 01 - 10:10 PM

I've been singing "...in a rusty row, and empty" for years and didn't hear "scrip" enough to... Therefore I assumed, having never seen it printed out that it was "scrimp enough..."(as in scrimp and save).

I think my guitar work saves my poor etymo-lyricology...

nah..probably not.


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: LR Mole
Date: 09 May 01 - 11:31 AM

Typos in songsheets--there's another thread right there. I remember someone typing a spirit master sheet (all purple and smelling chemical: another thing that dates me, I suppose) with the old Neil Diamond--Hollies' song missing a "y" in the title, hence "He Ain't Heave, He's My Brother".


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Kim C
Date: 09 May 01 - 11:41 AM

Isn't lyric drift just another part of the folk process at work?


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: MMario
Date: 09 May 01 - 11:46 AM

That would be my understanding -


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Wolfgang
Date: 09 May 01 - 12:00 PM

In 'Swansea Town' the Watersons sing 'she's my universal woman' where their recorded source had 'Search the universe all over'.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: bill\sables
Date: 09 May 01 - 12:04 PM

One of the reasons for lyric drift is that some of the words are no longer PC This usually relates to the negro songs by the likes of Stephen Foster etc. Also words that meant one thing at the time of writing have changed their meaning today an example is in "The Old Dunn Cow"
Just then there was such an awful crash
Half the bloody roof gave way
We were drowned in the fireman's hose
but still we were all GAY
Unfortunatly the more we find new meanings for common words the less songs we will be able to sing in future
Bill


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 09 May 01 - 12:18 PM

Favorite typo:"Dick Whittingon and his Oat". Tune in next week for another episode of this cereal!

Steve


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Boab
Date: 10 May 01 - 04:13 AM

One eminently sensible lyric change springs to mind. I heard it first from a Thornhill [Dumfrieshire] fella at Girvan festival some years ago. The song was "Tramps and Hawkers". Usual lyric---"I canna raise the wind" The lyric as altered-- "I think I'll go tae Paddy's land, I'm makin' up my Mind, for Scotland's fairly altered noo, and the blaw is hard tae find" I adopted that alteration. [Sorry Thornhill guy, I can't recall your name----] The Corries, by the way, regularly altered traditional lyrics if they thought it "improved" the song; sometimes, in fact, they took diabolical liberties! Boab


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 10 May 01 - 01:53 PM

There are two types of change here - one is where the words are changed so that people listening will understand the song with the original meaning, because the word used has changed its meaning - and the other is where there's an attempt to make sense of the words that changes the original meaning. Mondegreens fall into that category.

An odd little example is in Eric Bogle's No Man's Land - as he wrote it he sings "I've been walking all day" (at least I think he does) - but when sung in Ireland that is often understood (and printed, for example in the Ossian vol.3) as "working all day".

As for "gay" (eg in The Old Dun Cow), that word hasn't lost its traditional meaning, it's just got another meaning added in alongside for the time being. I suspect that the earlier meaning will reassert itself before all that long.


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Don Firth
Date: 10 May 01 - 02:21 PM

Interesting discussion from a couple of years ago: Is Lyric Creep a Sin?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Bill D
Date: 10 May 01 - 02:35 PM

The first verse of "Wildwood Flower" is a prime example...(we had a LOOOOONG discussion on it a couple years ago, including botanical analyses, but the scholars still bicker)

I can deal with natural 'lyric drift', commonly called folk processing, but when the folk processor gets set on 'pureé', I get upset.


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: UB Ed
Date: 10 May 01 - 03:09 PM

MMario, my friend sings: "If my true love were to leave me, I would surely hire a lawyer." I think he's being a little vindictive...


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Shula
Date: 11 May 01 - 04:52 AM

Dear folks,


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Shula
Date: 11 May 01 - 04:52 AM

Dear folks,


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Shula
Date: 11 May 01 - 04:52 AM

Dear folks,


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Shula
Date: 11 May 01 - 05:28 AM

Dear Folks,

I most humbly beg your collective pardon for the extra posts. I wish I knew what caused them, so I could prevent any future occurrences.

One form of lyric drift that usually bothers me is the elimination of inversions, i.e. "slowly, slowly. came she up...," to "slowly, slowly, she came up." Seems to buff off the nice "antique patina."

Shula


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 11 May 01 - 05:54 AM

Usualy a combination of the tab and return keys, Shula. If you press the tab key it highlights the 'Submit' button. Followed by return submits your entry!

Don't worry about it though - I am a supposed 'expert' on mid-range computers and still manage to cock most things up every now and again;-)

DtG


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Subject: RE: Lyric drift.
From: Bill D
Date: 11 May 01 - 08:59 AM

Shula.."buffing off the antique patina" seems to be another form of 'political correctness' that is all the rage these days. I do understand how some songs need to be ummmmmm.....'clarified' for some audiences, but usually I'd rather see the original left mostly intact, even if it DOES seem a bit dated.

(all them spicy recipes from Mexico and Thailand and India would be a lot easier to sell in Keokuck if they'd just take all those hot peppers out of 'em!)


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