Page 1 of 2


Posted: Fri Jul 31, 2020 7:38 pm
by Dr. Goodword

• hurdy-gurdy •

Pronunciation: hêr-di-gêr-di • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A medieval stringed instrument played by cranking a wheel that rotates beneath a row of strings, then depressing keys to bring the strings in contact with the wheel. 2. A barrel organ, which is also played by turning a crank.
Notes: The nitty-gritty of the hurdy-gurdy is that it is a rhyming compound with a plural, hurdy-gurdies, and not much else in terms of derivative relations. An adjective hurdy-gurdyish has been used a few times to refer to music and to someone who looks like the stereotypical hurdy-gurdy player.

In Play: Forgive me if my music is a bit cranky.The unfortunate fact of the matter is that the crank on the hurdy-gurdy lowers it in the esteem of music lovers: "Yes, I consider hip-hop to be music; not as good as hurdy-gurdy music, but music." Its reputation was not enhanced by the barrel organ, often referred to as a hurdy-gurdy in the first half of the 20th century. To hear a bit of hurdy-gurdy music, click here.

Word History: Today's Good Word is another rhyming compound, like willy-nilly, shilly-shally, and Humpty-Dumpty. It probably was influenced by an older word, no longer used, hirdy-girdy "uproar, disorder", a variant of hiddy-giddy "whirling, confusion", itself a corruption of an earlier heady + giddy. Rhyming compounds are always fun; that is why we find so many in English. They also reflect the close relation between language and music, as I point out in the essay linked to rhyming compound above. (Let us not dilly-dally, shilly-shally, or twiddle-twaddle in conveying our gratitude to the person known only as Grogie in the Alpha Agora, who delivered today's Good Word to us lickety-split.)

Re: Hurdy-Gurdy

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2020 7:38 am
by David Myer
As I recall, in the fifties in England, the piece of playground equipment that was simply a rotating drum with a running board around it, was also called a hurdy-gurdy. Dreadful thing it was too - responsible for many quite serious accidents with children being thrown off when the thing was going at speed, and also responsible for considerable motion-sickness incidents. I haven't seen one for years. Presumably they have been discontinued as being too dangerous. I do remember that bullies loved them, luring victims onto them and then revving them to huge speeds. We are better off without them.

Incidentally I can find no evidence on the internet to support this claim! But I did ask my Australian partner what she understood by the term, and she said a barrel-organ thingy or a playground roundabout thingy, so I am not going mad, it seems.

I believe some fun-fairs have more sophisticated but similar equipment also called a hurdy-gurdy. Of course victims are strapped in for safety reasons these days.

In Australia, I have heard the term used to describe the English helter-skelter (another rhyming compound - how many of them start with 'H'). This was a basic slide that coiled round and down a tall tower. A relatively mild piece of funfair equipment.

Re: Hurdy-Gurdy

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2020 8:41 am
by Dr. Goodword
Apparently, all these amusements share a 'round-and-'round motion with the handle of the hurdy-gurdy. But the hurdy-gurdy produces something close to music. I suppose the kind of music a hurdy-gurdy makes dissuades metaphorical uses of this word referring to things musical.

Re: Hurdy-Gurdy

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2020 10:54 pm
by David Myer
LOL! Yes there are some instruments that appear to be frowned upon by purists - banjo, recorder, harmonica... and now hurdy-gurdy.

Re: Hurdy-Gurdy

Posted: Sun Oct 25, 2020 6:58 pm
by bbeeton
"... something close to music", indeed! I guess it depends on one's taste in music. A hurdy-gurdy is very much a part of Breton folk music, and crossed the Atlantic into Quebec.

Here's another example of its use, as the background drone: Sadly, the group responsible for this recording didn't survive into the 21st century, but they closed out the last century with a flourish.

Re: Hurdy-Gurdy

Posted: Sun Oct 25, 2020 7:35 pm
by George Kovac
The late Justice Antonin Scalia was fond of using rhyming compounds, and in his opinions he used "jiggery-pokery," "hodge-podge," and, famously, "argle-bargle."

While rhyming compounds can be charming, and they have their rightful place in our general vocabulary, I am not a fan of Justice Scalia's use of them in legal opinions. In that context they are the rhetorical equivalent of name-calling, a classic bullying technique, and they (rightly or wrongly) can be interpreted as an indication the author's profound and unprofessional disrespect for competing points of view. Litigation is serious business, and opinion writers should, IMHO, avoid styles that are too clever, arch or cute. Save that showiness for law review articles.

Re: Hurdy-Gurdy

Posted: Sun Oct 25, 2020 10:05 pm
by Dr. Goodword
You're right, of course, George. I haven't read any of Scalia's opinions, so I didn't know this about him.

Rhyming compounds are, if not colloquial, word-play, and judges, especially Supreme Court justices, shouldn't be playing when they write opinions.

Re: Hurdy-Gurdy

Posted: Sun Oct 25, 2020 11:37 pm
by David Myer
I think it is OK at Supreme Court level because there is no further recourse! A lower court might well provoke appeals on the grounds that "the judge didn't take my case seriously". But I agree with you both - George and Dr Goodword.

And as for bbeeton's link... Hmm! not sure it is quite my style of music, but isn't that the joy of life? Everyone has different tastes.

Re: Hurdy-Gurdy

Posted: Mon Oct 26, 2020 11:25 am
by Philip Hudson
Stevenson called the Hurdy-Gurdy an organ in this poem.

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Of speckled eggs the birdie sings
And nests among the trees;
The sailor sings of ropes and things
In ships upon the seas.

The children sing in far Japan,
The children sing in Spain;
The organ with the organ man
Is singing in the rain.

Re: Hurdy-Gurdy

Posted: Sun Jan 03, 2021 8:57 am
by Slava
Watching one of the videos on youboob, I noticed that the crank isn't just a wind-up crank, it is moved in both directions. I think this adds quite a bit to the level of the music. Not that it was to my liking, but it's not just a wind-up toy kind of thing.

Re: Hurdy-Gurdy

Posted: Sun Jan 03, 2021 6:06 pm
by Philip Hudson
I was born in the hinterlands. If you don't know about the hinterlands, it is just on the other side of the boondocks. That in turn is just past the riverbank settlement which is somewhere over the river [not the rainbow] in the brush country of Live Oak County Texas. And none of the above are racially inspired insults. We are all pretty much rednecks here in Texas. The redneck culture has spread out amongst the various ethnicities. But not Yankee! We ain't got no Yankees. And there ain't no Yankee dimes a circulating down here. I have to jump out this ridiculous diatribe so I don't lose my audience. Ask the Good Doctor what a Yankee dime is. I am sure he knows and may even have spent one or two in his salad days.

I am now ready to discuss those wishy washy words such as hurdy-gurdy. I have never seen and rarely heard of a hurdy-gurdy. In keeping with Robert Louis Stevenson, the last word [expert] on proper English, it is an organ. The one who turns the handle is the organ grinder. I have seen one only once and that was in New Orleans, Louisiana. The organ grinder was a small ape of some sort and he had a keeper handy should he get out of hand.

The item in the children's playground is a merry-go-round. It is generally safe unless some big kids get it going too fast. The up and down board that some call a teeter-totter is a see-saw. We don't have the metal slides for children to slide down here. The metal is so hot out in the sun it would burn their little bottoms off. I am either lying or exaggerating in the previous sentence. It only applies to the summertime.

Justice Antonin Scalia is now beyond mortal ken. I make no further comment on him.

I echo David Myer's "not quite my style of music" even though I have wide experience [and a smidgen of education] with the subject and had declared myself musically eclectic until Little Richard stumbled upon the scene in the 1950s and split the bottom out the art. I think I just typed the longest incomplete sentence in the history of mankind. Well, STET!

Also the banjo, recorder [the flute like one],and harmonica are all bonafide musical instruments around these parts. Granny couldn't move her parlor organ and her piano from East Texas to the hinterlands because of the shipping costs, so she came with her harmonica. Uncle Tommy came with his banjo on his knee.

Please take this all in a jugular - I mean - in a jocular vein.

If this missile launched missal arrives intact, I hereby wish you all a blessed and prosperous New Year.

Re: Hurdy-Gurdy

Posted: Sun Jan 03, 2021 9:00 pm
by Dr. Goodword
I grew up in North Carolina. I didn't know "damn Yankee" was two words until I was 16.

Re: Hurdy-Gurdy

Posted: Tue Jan 05, 2021 7:19 am
by David Myer
What is Yankee that makes it so pejorative? I thought it was any United States citizen these days but particularly a Northerner, or at any rate, not a Confederate. Is there a continuing North-South rivalry (jealousy?)

Re: Hurdy-Gurdy

Posted: Tue Jan 05, 2021 7:34 am
by Slava
Yankee as a pejorative depends on who's talking, and where they are. In most of the world, it's the US as a perceived interfering busybody, or any annoying Americans. In the US, it's anti-Northerner, in the Civil War sense. Unless you're talking about the baseball team, then it's perfectly understandable.

Yankee has been to the Doctor a few times over the years. The one with some commentary is here.

Re: Hurdy-Gurdy

Posted: Wed Jan 06, 2021 12:02 am
by Philip Hudson
The word "Yankee" has many disputed definitions and sources. I go with the majority who attribute it to the Dutch name, Jan Kees. This epithet was first used by the British to designate the Dutch. Of course the British bent toward foreigners at the time made this a pejorative title. Exit the Dutch from America and let time mellow the word, and a Yankee Doodle was an ill defined catch word -hence the song, Yankee Doodle. It appears that the song was first a British Song making fun of the American Colonists. Then the Colonists took it up, added some words and used it as their own. Not everyone cottoned to the term however.
I found the following in one discussion of Yankee:
To foreigners, a Yankee is an American.
To Americans, a Yankee is a Northerner.
To Northerners, a Yankee is an Easterner.
To Easterners, a Yankee is a New Englander.
To New Englanders, a Yankee is a Vermonter.
And in Vermont, a Yankee is somebody who eats pie for breakfast.

No one in his right mind would want to return to the antebellum status quo. This, however, does not mean the North had righteousness on its side while the South was all bad. At that time, conditions in the North for the average Irish immigrant were desperate. In some ways he was worse off than the slave. Also Africans in the North were marginalized if not persecuted.

One might also note that under Reconstruction the South was sorely prosecuted/persecuted. You may not know that the final Reconstruction law was in effect well into the 20th century. It had to be with railroad rates. Sending a freight car to goods to California directly from the south cost much more than sending one from the North.

I have always heard the admonition, "Save your Confederate money boys, the South will rise again," I do not think this was ever said in earnest. I know of a certainty that my ancestors used their Confederate money as kindling for their wood burning stoves.

There is still a residual of cultural differences between the North and the South. For example, the North uses mayonnaise. The South uses Kraft Miracle Whip. :lol: