Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: As a former performing and studio musician, and even now as a practicing lawyer, I, like Carrie Lightman (and yourself), find that I have learned some really cool words from pop songs.

Though I do not recall the title, a song with a phrase about “falderal” provided me with a noun that I often use as a synonym for “nonsense.”

And from a Cole Porter standard “Kiss me twice, then once more. That makes thrice, let's make it four” gave me a substitute for “three times.”

The occasional interspersing of such words can make mundane prose shine like the stars in the “Midnight Sun.” Each has its own Aurora Borealis.
—Sonny Reisz, Evansville, Ind.

DEAR SONNY: Law school may have been a good place to learn about “quid pro quo” and “habeas corpus,” but it took music to acquaint you with “falderal” (sometimes spelled “folderal”) and “thrice.”

Come to think of it, even “habeas corpus” is used in a pop song: “Lizzie Borden,” a 1962 hit for the Chad Mitchell Trio (“Jump like a fish, jump like a porpoise, all join hands in habeas corpus”). This novelty may have been my first exposure to that term. “Guys and Dolls” is not the only song to mention “falderal,” but it probably the most famous (“he's still lifting [stealing] platinum falderal”).

The song that taught you “thrice” is “How Long Has This Been Going On,” though its writer is George Gershwin, not Cole Porter.

Many a pop and jazz star recorded this tune. Just a few among them are: Judy Garland; Cher; Ella Fitzgerald; Andy Williams; Ray Charles; and Jon Bon Jovi.

Nice concluding touch, making reference to “Each star its own Aurora Borealis,” from the beautiful “Midnight Sun.” Thanks for the memories.

DEAR JERRY: What a surprise to read the letter from Illinois reader, Carrie Lightman.

Pretty much the same comments could have come from me, but with different examples, of course.

Now that the door has been opened, let me at least pitch in my two-cent's, or two-word's, worth.

I first heard “indelible” while listening to “Invisible Tears,” and discovered “serenely” thanks to the “My Fair Lady” hit, “I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face.”

Whoa! I just thought of another great one, and it's from “Kiss Me Kate.” In “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” they introduced me to “kowtow.”

Like Carrie, I can also say that these neat words did not get used in conversations with teenage friends.
—Jan Wilkins, Artesia, Calif.

DEAR JAN: I do appreciate your three-word's worth, but let's explain how they are used in those tunes:

“Invisible Tears” refers to “indelible memories of sweet, lovable you,” and “I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face” contains “I was serenely independent, and content before we met.”

In “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” the lyrics suggest the guys brush up on their Shakespeare if you want the dolls to kowtow, or submit.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned “conjugate,” a very uncommon word to hear in a R&R hit. Yet Clint Miller's 1958 rocker, “Bertha Lou,” contains: “Bertha Lou, Bertha Lou, I wanna conjugate with you.”

Again and again I find myself quoting the title of a great ABBA song, “Thank You for the Music.”

IZ ZAT SO? A memorable line in the Chad Mitchell Trio's “Lizzie Borden,” states: “Elizabeth Borden took an axe, and gave her mother 40 whacks. And when the job was nicely done, she gave her father 41.”

The actual number of whacks stated in the song serve to accommodate the rhyme, but apart from the whack total is the endless debate over whether Borden really comitted the crimes.

What is known is that in August of 1892, authorities found the dead bodies of Abby and Andrew Borden in their Fall River, Massachusetts home.

Daughter Lizzie quickly became the prime suspect, though a jury acquitted her after a lengthy Superior Court trial.

As with some of the modern day high-profile trials, endless second-guessing followed the jury's verdict.

The Chad Mitchell Trio reflect the lingering uncertainty thusly: “Some folks say she didn't do it, and others say of course she did, but they all agree Miss Lizzie B. was a problem kind of kid.”

Of that, there is no difference of opinion.

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