Saturday, 30 November 2013

Bobby Shaftoe's gettin' a barn

Borgen last week (and this week too, probably) reminded me of a setting of Bobby Shaftoe that we sang on the Wokingham Choral Society's tour of the West Country earlier this year, reported here.
<digression theme="all men are false">
And on the subject of Bobby Shaftoe, I don't see why it's always presented as such an upbeat song.
 "He'll come back and marry me"...?                  Who are you trying to kid, sister?
"Bobby Shaftoe's gettin a bairn"...?                   oh yeah? You are  Take it from me    kiddo, you've seen the last of the aptly-initialled BS.
<meta_digression subject="All men are false">
The song Silver Dagger includes the verse
"'All men are false'
Says my mother,
'They'll tell you wicked loving lies.
And the very next evening
He'll court another
Leave you alone to pine and sigh.'"
At least, that's the way I know it, from a Joan Baez EP (Remember them?). In a play on Radio 4 last week (still catchable if you're quick) a character sang "All men are fools"; OK, that's the folk process. Words change from singer to singer. But 'my mother' didn't mean that men are fools: 'They'll tell you wicked loving lies" You wouldn't catch her singing "He'll come back and marry me".
Where was I...? Borgen. Katrine was talking to Kasper about 'min barn' (Google Translate says the min becomes mit in that context, but I'm not convinced. I suspect a typo. I'm pretty sure I heard an [n].) Anyway, Danish barn means English 'child'.

In preparation for our tour, I downloaded a recording of  an American choir singing Bobby Shaftoe, and I was greatly amused by the words 'Bobby Shaftoe's gettin' a barn [sic]' The next line is 'For to dandle on his arm', and I thought the singers were just trying to 'repair' the rhyme (not knowing the Scottish pronunciation of 'arm').

Album containing
The Road t Dundee
The song The Road to Dundee includes the line '...she gave me her ar-m'. And the tune is a match for the strangely similar-sounding Streets of Laredo (totally different, and modal where Streets of Laredo† is in the major, but the rhythms are the same [Streets of Laredo=Gave me her ar-m] and the tunes are an inexact mirror image of each other). Arm is [eʀm]. (Other similarities include reference to the season in the first line, in a way relevant to the mode [Cauld winter was howlin' o'er moor and o'er mountain versus I left my hometown one warm summer evenin' in the warmer-sounding major tune, and a first-person narrative.])

So in Bobby Shaftoe, the 'bairn/arm' rhyme doesn't need repairing. Silly Yanks I thought (being a bit of a Chauvinist; apologies for the intemperate slur, which I'm about to retract, if you'll be so good as to read on); Fancy not knowing that.

But Borgen made me think again. The printed text in the musical score is '...bairn/...arm'; and a non-British speaker might not recognize the word bairn. But if one of the singers had Danish ancestry (as a good few North Americans do) they might have recognized it as barn. There was Danish influence on Scots and English. So my imagined Dane might well assume it was a plain typo. Not so silly.

A while ago I noted this snippet somewhere, which seems vaguely relevant:

A linguistics professor at the University of Oslo has been making headlines with a controversial claim. He believes that English is, in fact, a Scandinavian language, placing it in the North Germanic language family rather [ed: 'than'] the West Germanic family, where it has traditionally been placed. Is English a Scandinavian Language? he asks in a K International blog.

But I must be getting on before the next episode starts and fills my head with more 'wild surmise'.

Update 2013.12.01.11:35 – Added links
† Johnny Cash's version doesn't have the 'warm summer evening'.  That's the folk process for you.

Update 2013.12.01.17:15 – Added this PS:


Report from the word face

When  I last reported on #WVGTbook I was having trouble with conversion to hardcopy, partly because the only format Amazon would take was PDF, so I was forced off the WinWord I know (Word 2003) onto a new one (a beta test kit) that lets me choose .pdf as an output format.

Suddenly – though I suspect that if I read the right blogs I'd've known it was coming – they're accepting .doc, docx, and even .rtf as well. So I'm retracing my (very tentative) steps with Word 2013 and working on a plain .doc file. I should be done before Christmas. Stay tuned ....

Update 2014.05.06.12:15 – Updated footer

Update 2014.06.06.21:45 – And again.

Update 2015.06.22.10:05 – And again, and added picture.

Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

I'm thinking about doing a native iBook version in due course, but for now Mac users can use Kindle's own (free) simulator.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this

Freebies (Teaching resources:  
Over 49,100 views  and nearly 8,000 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with nearly 2,700 views and nearly 1,100 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

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