Sing Noël! Sing Gloria!

It was probably inevitable that a married couple of songwriters named Noël and Gloria would write a Christmas song. Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne wrote Do you hear what I hear? (first recording, by the Harry Simeone Chorale) in October 1962. 

Or maybe not, because his name was actually Léon, and he was hesitant to write a Christmas song due to the commercialisation of Christmas. Noël wrote the words, influenced by the then-current Cuban Missile Crisis and Gloria the music.

Gloria came into English straight from Latin, and also via Old French glorie to become Middle English glory. I couldn’t figure out what the origin of noël (or noel) might be, and would not have guessed that it comes from Latin diēs nātālis day of birth (compare nativity). French did drastic things to Latin (note also that glorie became gloire), but that one is a stretch. Noël is a relatively late arrival into English, dating from 1805-1815. The First Nowell was first published in 1823.


Let’s call the whole thing off

One song which is often quoted or alluded to when discussing pronunciation differences (and even differences of any kind) is “Let’s call the whole thing off“, by George and Ira Gershwin, first sung by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the movie Shall we dance?. The relevant part starts:

You say either and I say either,
You say neither and I say neither

Most versions of the lyrics online don’t help by not indicating the pronunciation (apparently, neither did the sheet music; Wikipedia reports that Ira Gershwin told the story of one singer who sang the song with the same pronunciations throughout), so I will write:

You say ee-ther and I say eye-ther,
You say nee-ther and I say nye-ther

This also doesn’t help by not indicating who is singing, therefore making it clear who says this and who says that. In the movie, he sings this part, so I will write:

she sayshe says

The whole song can be summarised as:

She says, likes, wears …He says, likes, wears …
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