“God save the king”

For 70 years, people in the Commonwealth realms and beyond sang God save the queen. Recently, some of us have sung God save the king. I haven’t had to yet. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I sang God save the queen, as it was replaced by Advance Australia fair in 1974. Being a moderate republican (note that a lowercase-r republican in Australia is very different from an uppercase-R Republican in the USA) I would probably decline to sing God save the king unless I really had to (frexample if I was in a featured choir). In fact, in fact, I struggle to remember singing Advance Australia fair since the opening ceremony of the 2000 olympic games.

Several days ago I watched a video about music in which someone talked about the use of repetition in music. He contrasted God save the king (which has no repetition) and Twinkle, twinkle, little star (which has multiple repeated phrases). But he didn’t use standard words (either God save the king or My country,  ’tis of thee, but a parody version I hadn’t heard before. I thought that was semi-interesting but wouldn’t have written a post about it. But yesterday a colleague mentioned that when he was young, he thought that one phrase was 

Santa victorious

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“salad mice”

I happened on the Youtube channel of a young American couple apparently living and working in South Korea and touring occasionally. The auto-subtitles were on, and one video included the phrase

salad mice 

Because I could see their video and hear them speaking, I knew what they were talking about, but I’ll leave it with you with no context.

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The Best of Pachelbel

A few months ago I saw a video promising 78 minutes of ‘The Best of Pachelbel’. Oh hooray, 5 minutes of canon, 3 minutes of gigue and 70 minutes of other works from his prolific output. Er, no … 75 minutes of canon, 3 minutes of gigue and zero of other works. Can you even name another work? I had, and maybe still have, a volume of organ music.  

About two months ago I wrote about covers of pop songs, with special reference to The Eagles’ Hotel California. Many of the same comments apply to classical music, though the term cover is probably not appropriate. We refer to performances, renditions and interpretations (of the composer’s original) and transcriptions and arrangements (someone else’s changing of the original in some way). Pachelbel’s Canon is surely in the top 10 of most arranged and (over-)used works. The challenge of arranging this work is that 3 independent upper lines don’t fit naturally together on any one other instrument. Of the versions in the video, the most convincing were those which kept the original lines (one for string orchestra and one for brass ensemble) and those which totally reimagined the work (one for guitar and one for string quartet which ended up in Brahmsian territory, as far as I can remember – I’m not going to spend another 78 minutes relistening). Most of them were wishy-washy. Music should never be wishy-washy.

I was going to write far more about classical arrangements in general and this one in particular, but I won’t. I’ll leave you with this for those who like it and this for those who don’t.

Nice noise – nooice

A Youtuber named Rachel Boyd has  channel mainly of history videos, but also of music videos each featuring works from one period of music history. Most of them have attracted comments intended to be in the language style of that period, with some commenters doing a better job than others. One commenter on a video of works from the Classical period complains the “now the music is just noice”.

I think he means noise, but noice is reasonably common in Australian English as an exaggerated and jocular pronunciation of nice, which would completely change the meaning. But it’s not new, and it’s not Australian. Dictionary.com cites Charles Dickens writing “Ye be noice chaps” in Nicholas Nickleby in 1838. And for extra emphasis, there’s also nooice.

여러 분 추석 잘 보내세요!

Chuseok isn’t a holiday in Australia, of course, so I spent the day working, listening to Korean music or semi-watching Korean hiking videos for most of the time. Youtube suggested two videos of old photos of Seoul, dating from 1884 and 1984 respectively. (A lot happened in between!)

The first is on the 대한여지도 Korean Geographic channel, and has photos taken by Percival Lowell. (There are other similar videos – follow the links.)

If you can’t see a video above, try here, or search for eg ‘youtube korean geographic seoul 1884 percival lowell’.

The second is the 복원왕 Restoration King channel, and has colourised photos. (There are other similar videos – follow the links.)

If you can’t see a video above, try here, or search for eg ‘youtube restoration king life in seoul 1984’.

The next video I watched was from 1979, and the Yeouido 63 Building was conspicuously absent (it was started in 1980). While I was watching it, I had the sudden thought that it would be interesting to compare then and now (if possible). The screenshot for the second video above should be relatively easy, but the screenshot for the first video is probably under an apartment building or department store.

I also remembered seeing a video at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza of the view from Namsan, with the buildings risings up animatedly over time.

Curiouser and curiouser

I recently discovered the Youtube channel It’s okay to be smart, hosted by Joe Hanson, which presents bite-sized chunks of general science at about my level of general science. He finishes each video saying “Stay curious”. I assume that means wondering and eager to learn or know, and not causing interest and speculation by being unusual. I assume the first meaning came first. Because of the two meanings, it is (just) possible to say “Very curious people are often very curious”.


I woke up in the middle of the night with the “word”


in my head.

I have sometimes got up in the middle of night to do linguistic research, but on this occasion I was determined to go do back to sleep as soon as possible. A few obvious preliminary questions: is this actually a word? if so, what does it mean and where did I encounter it? if not, why did my brain think of that combination of letters rather than any others?

If it is a word, it’s not a standard English word, because all the standard English words starting with pn– are technical and relate to air or breathing, and most of the standard English words ending with –au are French (with a few German and Welsh). 

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Either way, don’t beg the question

Some prescriptivists insist that beg the question means, and can only mean, assume the conclusion of a philosophical argument, and doesn’t mean, and cannot mean, raise the question. The esteemed Mark Liberman of Language Log traces the whole history from Greek to Latin to English in probably more detail than you will ever need or want (brief summary: almost everyone now uses it to mean raise the question) and concludes: 

If you use the phrase to mean “raise the question”, some pedants will silently dismiss you as a dunce, while others will complain loudly, thus distracting everyone else from whatever you wanted to say. If you complain about others’ “misuse”, you come across as an annoying pedant. And if you use the phrase to mean “assume the conclusion”, almost no one will understand you.

My recommendation: Never use the phrase yourself — use “assume the conclusion” or “raise the question”, depending on what you mean — and cultivate an attitude of serene detachment in the face of its use by others.

The reason I am mentioning this is that a few days ago I was watching a TED-X Talk in which the (native US English) speaker said:

Which begs me to ask another question …

No it doesn’t.

PS 26 Aug: A commenter on a Language Log post seems to have used the phrase in its original sense, judging by his punctuation: “”Is this the best way to approach the problem of the lack of scientific terminology in African languages ?”. I think that this begs the question. Is there any evidence that the lack of scientific terminology in African languages is a problem ?”

Roughing it

One Korean hiking video shows a young Korean woman setting up camp – tent, small folding chair and table and gas burner on which she cooked samgyeopsal and kimchi – followed by pulling out a full-sized bottle of wine and a wine glass!

(I’m typing this as I sit in my backyard watching the total lunar eclipse, without food or wine, but with wifi.)

death defying

James Edmeston wrote the hymn Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us in 1821. His original second verse, addressing Jesus, includes:

Lone and dreary, faint and weary,
Through the desert thou didst go

Many Christians are hesitant to think, talk, write or sing about Jesus as in any way limited, even as they talk about him being fully human (and fully divine). Some modern hymn books have changed that to:

Self-denying, death defying,
Thou to Calvary didst go

but death defying just gives the wrong impression. Google Ngrams reports death(-)defying stunts, feat(s), leap(s), act(s), death(?), courage, spirit and notes(?). Death-defying is a very 20th-century concept, and was almost unknown before then. 

(Google’s first suggestion of a video was from the Queen’s 90th birthday service of thanksgiving (2016), at which this second version was sung.)

A third version is:

Yet unfearing, persevering,
To thy passion thou didst go

which sounds the most reasonable. Note that the original words refer to Jesus’s 40 days of fasting and temptation in the wilderness, while the altered words refer to his crucifixion and death. The last lines of versions 2 and 3 are probably interchangeable. (Note also that the first line each time rhymes within itself, while the second line rhymes with lines earlier in the verse. The overall rhyming scheme is A B A B cc B.)

Many hymns are rendered problematic to some degree by changes of meaning, grammar, theology, sociology or taste. The question is whether we stop singing them, stick with the original words at the risk of people misunderstanding them, or change them; if so, by whom and how.