Archive for Language and music

Turandot and the deep Indo-European roots of "daughter"

In recent days, the famous aria from the final act of Giacomo Puccini's opera Turandot, "Nessun dorma" (Italian: [nesˌsun ˈdɔrma]; English: "Let no one sleep"), has surfaced as part of a worldwide movement to encourage the Italian people in their struggle against the novel coronavirus (see here, here, and here).  This article by Claudia Rosett gives the backstory:

"An Uplifting Moment, in the Time of Coronavirus", PJ Media (3/14/20)

This led me to ponder the origins of Turandot's name, especially since the operatic version of the story is set in China and she is alleged to be a Chinese princess.  Right away, I was in for a jolt, since "The name of the opera is based on Turan-Dokht (daughter of Turan), which is a common name used in Persian poetry for Central Asian princesses." (source)

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"Forty Days and Forty Nights"

The old hymn and blues song of that title have been very much on my mind during the last couple of months.

George Hunt Smyttan (1856)

Forty days and forty nights
You were fasting in the wild;
Forty days and forty nights,
Tempted, and yet undefiled….

Muddy Waters (1956)

Forty days and forty nights, since my baby left this town
Sun shinin' all day long, but the rain keep falling down
She's my life I need her so, why she left I just don't know….

These are very different kinds of songs, yet they are both focused on a period of forty days and forty nights.  I've been thinking about these songs a lot in the current climate of far-reaching quarantines against the novel coronavirus epidemic centered on Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

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Xiist music

Allusions to Language Log posts abound:

 

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The Hu: a wildly successful Mongolian rock band

Here's the official video of their viral hit, "Wolf Totem":

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Emoji in Chinese music video lyric

From Charles Belov:

I thought I was going to be sending you a case of Google Translate munging a song lyric when translating it from Chinese to English. Instead, I'm sending you a case of a Chinese music video making use of an emoji in the song lyrics.

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Hol don

This morning while shaving, as I was listening to the radio around 7:30 a.m., I heard a medley of songs by three artists, all with the same title:  "Hold on".  But a funny thing happened in all three of these renditions:  whenever the singer pronounced the title phrase, it always came out as "hol don", at least to my ear.  But I don't think it was just my ear, since several times they prolonged the "hol" syllable and emphasized the "d" at the beginning of the "don" syllable.

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"Hello" sung by a Kazakh

Here is Dimash Kudaibergen singing "Hello":

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"Amarillo by Morning" sung by a Mongolian

Mongolian gets 97 points for singing "Amarillo by Morning" on US TV show but didn't understand a word he was singing. His pronunciation was perfect.

[VHM:  The YouTube video linked to here is currently unavailable, but our resourceful Language Log readers have elsewhere found this song sung by Enkh Erdene and others by him as well, some of them captioned.  See the comments below.]

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Visual puns in K-pop, part 2

Three days ago, we saw how the group named Apink wrote the Korean phrase “eung-eung 응응” (“yes”, “okay”, or “uh huh”) as %% for the title of their hit single:  "Visual puns in K-pop" (1/10/19).

Now comes another famous K-pop song called "T T" (Roman letter T):

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Visual puns in K-pop

The newest release from K-pop group Apink is called "Eung Eung", written %%.

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Feel free to play this piano

While passing through Hartsfield Atlanta airport a few weeks back, Neil Dolinger passed a piano located in a place where passersby could freely play it.  A sign nearby (see photograph below) encourages this in 12 different languages:

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Balkan-Chinese rock, with a Turkish twist

From Charles Belov:

This song turned up on my Apple Music new music playlist. Imagine my surprise when, in the middle of this Balkan-language (Croatian, I think, the page mentions "hrvatsko") pop/rock song, Mandarin hip-hop turned up.

"Mladen Burnać (feat. Rock) – Džaba Džaba"

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"Despacito" transcribed with Mandarin, Taiwanese, and English syllables

This amazing song from Taiwan seems to have been inspired by some Japanese cultural practices, which we will explore later in this post.

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