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A Murphy, a Melvin, and a Wedgie (full episode)
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2010/03/16
10:06pm
Hypnerotomachia
Seattle, WA
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I have been playing with music for years and I have always used the word interpolation. When I play a “cover” song I follow the theatrical rule that says you can’t change or add a word, but you can do anything else. Interpolation may have the larger meaning of simply changing a piece of music, but I can’t pass up the scat-tastic warmth of in-ter-po-la-tion.

2010/03/17
2:48pm
SaSoldier
Connersville, IN
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Being in The Salvation Army, I know a lot of songs like the “Amazing Grace” “Gilligian’s Island” song. William Booth used to go into the bars and listen to the sngs that were being sung. He then changed those words to Christian words, and he is even noted for saying, “Why should the Devil have all the good music?” Even today, if you look in The Salvation Army Tune book, you will see “My Bonny Lies Over The Ocean” and “Home on the Range.” Of course, we’ve slowed those melodies down a little and they’ve been “Christianized.” Usually when I am singing “Home on the Range” to myself the words get mixed up. My version goes like this: Give me a home, The Salvation Army’s words are: Come beautiful Christ,
Where the buffalo roam Radiate thy beauty in me,
Where the deer and the antelope play, ‘Tis thee I adore,
‘Tis thee I adore, What can I ask more,
What can I ask more, Then to live for thee beautiful Christ.
Then to live for thee beautiful Christ.

I think that scraping your fork on your plate does the same thing and scraping your nails down a chalkboard. I don’t think that we will stop using plates or forks for a long time, so this might be a better phrase to use in the future, or when chalkboards are gone. Also, I have a friend that will only give out props when someone “fails.” Instead of saying “Fail” or “epic fail”, she sarcastically says, “That’s great. I give you props.”

2010/03/17
5:32pm
piels
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Along the same lines as “homometer”, why not “symmetry”?

2010/03/17
8:48pm
Phil
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In my younger days with both the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), and the Science Fiction fan/convention groups, I spent a lot of time with the filkers. I have to say, I like homometer. The word filk used as a verb, would be to compose the song or perform it. But the song would not be ‘a filk’. A filk is the gathering of people who do filk.

And since we are talking about the slang of particular cultures, I want to throw in a couple of my favorites from the re-enactor circuit.
Brass Hats-The officially crowned members of a medieval re-enactment group.
Popsy-A young lady who has more enthusiasm than common sense.
Plastic Castle-The portable plastic outhouses common to temporary festivals.
Stick Jock-Combatants in the medieval events who come only for the combat.
Period Police-Individuals who are primarily concerned with the historic accuracy rather than the flavor or intent.
Garbage bag-The gym bag, duffel bag, or suit bag one carries their clothing (garb) in.

In service to the Midrealm,
ld. Philip Galen Nicodemus.
*er*
Phil

2010/03/18
1:01am
Tim G
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On the topic of “nails on a chalkboard” I have heard two very close sayings that are synonymous to this. 1) a shovel on concrete and 2) shovel scrapping concrete. Both are used exactly the same way, mainly by people about 25 – 35, though it is not as common as nails on a chalkboard. I have heard it in Orange County, LA and in San Diego, with Orange County being the most frequent. This may be the result of nearly continous construction noise of our urban sprawl.

2010/03/18
2:22am
Ron Draney
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I’ve heard a number of things said to be as annoying as the fingernails, but most are confined to a subset of people:

  1. rubbing a balloon
  2. clipping one’s nails (a sensitive individual at work once complained that she could hear me whenever I treated a hangnail, and filed a complaint)
  3. the word “moist”
2010/03/18
8:34am
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clipping one’s nails (a sensitive individual at work once complained that she could hear me whenever I treated a hangnail, and filed a complaint

How was the complaint resolved?

Emmett

2010/03/18
12:15pm
sciencedude
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16 Candles, 76 Trombones, Addams Family, theme to Dallas, Munsters, Mingulay Boat Song, Rising Sun, and Scooby Doo have all donated their melodies to Amazing Grace. A group called The Corsairs did it on the end of one of their CDs.

2010/03/21
12:48am
paulus
Sydney, Australia
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Difference between “bring” and “take”

When I married an Australian-born daughter of Dutch immigrants in the seventies, I was puzzled by her use of bring/take. Her only language was Dutch until she started school.

I finally decided that there were 2 competing systems (between her usage and mine):

1. in standard English, we use BRING with the destination HERE and TAKE with the destination THERE.
2. In standard Dutch and German, they use BRING with the direction TO and TAKE with the direction FROM.

I suspect that the longer influence of Germanic languages in the US has changed regional usage considerably.

As Grant said in the show, this simple dichotomy is muddled a bit with phrasal verbs.

Love the show.
Paulus (in Sydney)

2010/03/22
3:03pm
San Diego, CA
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Gracious sakes, this is so much great stuff, I don’t know where to begin! I guess I will by casting a vote for “homometer” (rhyming with “thermometer”). Thanks, ya’ll — we’ll have to revisit some of these responses in a future episode for sure.

2010/03/24
11:28am
Jennifer
Indiana
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I’d like to weigh in on the question of substituting lyrics.

First, I’d vote against homometer. The musical term “meter” is not equivalent to the poetic term. In poetry, of course, meter refers to the number of feet in a line, based on patterns of emphasis (a-MA-zing GRACE how SWEET the SOUND that SAVED a WRETCH like ME=7 iambic feet). While meter in music was used in this way for hymns, (as mentioned in the term “common meter” above), the musical term meter refers much more specifically to how many beats there are in a bar.

To keep it simple, “Amazing Grace” is in 3. This means you can count to three in equal spaces over and over until the song is over. “Amazing Grace” begins with 3 and continues from there. The emphasis is always on beat 1. Each is evenly spaced (despite how it looks here):

a- MA- zing GRACE how SWEET the SOUND that SAVED a WRETCH like ME
3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3

“Gilligan’s Island,” on the other hand is in 4:
Just SIT right down and HEAR a tale a TALE of a fate-ful TRIP
4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1

When you sing “Amazing Grace” to “Gilligan’s Island” you are actually changing the meter, both musical and poetic. Think about what syllables are emphasized when you do it to “Gilligan’s Island”:

a- MA- zing grace how SWEET the sound that SAVED a wretch like Me

This is why it’s funny. You’re singing a plodding, stately hymn to the rhythm of a sea chantey. In sum, they don’t really share a meter. They share a common phrase structure.

Second, I’d like to second Grant’s choice of “contrafactum” with a little explanation. The Latin “contrafactum” (pl. contrafacta) was used, just as Grant explained, in Medieval music to indicate that it was the same song with new words, often switching back and forth between Latin and French, sacred and secular. It was a fun game to take a text about the Virgin Mary and write new words to that well-known song about a beautiful, sexy girl.

The term has been applied more generally recently, however. In jazz, for example, musicians often have taken existing songs and written new tunes to the same chords, to avoid copyright. There are hundreds of jazz songs written over the chords of Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm.” One example is Duke Ellington’s “Cottontail.” For all of these contrafacts, you can sing “I Got Rhythm” alongside the new tune and it fits perfectly. We refer to these by the Anglicized term “contrafact.” Today, contrafact means a song which is based on major structural features of another song (the tune, the chords), and there are many different types of contrafacts. “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” is a contrafact, and so is the “Amazing Grace” example.

2010/03/24
12:58pm
Glenn
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Welcome. Thanks for the great information. While contrafact is a new word to me, it seems perfectly apt to this situation.

2010/03/24
11:13pm
Vikki
Brown County, Indiana
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Tim G said:

On the topic of “nails on a chalkboard” I have heard two very close sayings that are synonymous to this. 1) a shovel on concrete and 2) shovel scrapping concrete. Both are used exactly the same way, mainly by people about 25 – 35, though it is not as common as nails on a chalkboard. I have heard it in Orange County, LA and in San Diego, with Orange County being the most frequent. This may be the result of nearly continous construction noise of our urban sprawl.


My vote for the most annoying modern version of the “nails on the chalkboard” is the high pitched “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP” of any large vehicle backing up. I hate it!

2010/03/26
9:32pm
Portland, OR
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Just the contrafacts: How about “homotune?”

Another obvious example: “Mary Had a Little Lamb: and “London Bridge is Falling Down.”

2010/04/06
9:39pm
Katie Beth
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Having recently completed my student teaching in a classroom equiped with a whiteboard and an interactive whiteboard (commonly known as SmartBoards in our area, but that’s a specific brand name), I want to assure the world that they can still produce annoying sounds. Whiteboard markers do squeak on occassion, though not as obnoxiously as nails on a chalkboard. My first grade students and joked frequently about having “squeaky fingers” on the interactive whiteboard. I’m not sure if the problem was a very dry finger or a sweaty one, but some students were consistently unable to manipulate an object on the chalkboard without a continuous squeak. Again, it wasn’t nearly as obnoxious as nails on a chalkboard, but it was distracting enough that I asked students with sqeaky fingers to use their fingernail instead of the pad of their finger, to eliminate noise. These aren’t the only inadvertent noisemakers in a classroom, and I’m sure students will continue to find ways to make sounds that make our skin crawl!

2010/05/03
11:03am
Wauwatosa, WI
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I like using “isometric” for this.

piels said:

Along the same lines as “homometer”, why not “symmetry”?


2010/09/04
1:14pm
CEB
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The nails on the chalkboard only works with the true slate blackboard, which would only exist in very old schools. The newer painted fiberboard chalkboards started appearing in the 1950’s as new schools were being constructed for the baby boomers, so only us oldsters have heard the sound. There was always the one kid that could stand the sound and would make it every time he had a chance just to freak the rest of us out.

2010/09/05
7:56am
Irish
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Regarding nails on a chalkboard, the closest thing for me is a metal fork on a ceramic plate. Or metal on metal.

2010/09/07
12:55pm
Eliezer Pennywhistler
Trenton, NJ
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Ron Draney said:

Peter Schickele, creator of PDQ Bach and erstwhile host of “Schickele Mix”, could sing Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” to the tune of the tango classic “Hernando’s Hideaway”.


You can do the exact same thing with the Hebrew hymn “Adon Olam”.

**********
There is a feature on the BBC radio program “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” called “One Song To The Tune Of Another”. They have been doing it nearly every week for more than 20 years. “Clue” isn’t on BBC Radio 7 at the moment, but it keeps coming back. Check it out! bbc.co.uk

2010/09/09
2:32am
noah little
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Just had to press pause while listening (and laughing) to this episode so I could come here and give a huge BRAVO to Marcia, the listener from CA who sang for us. Awesome!

Thanks Marcia, you made my listening all the more fun. :-)

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