[Ads-l] da-dah! ta-dah! (was Re: Cap/Kap)

Z Sohna zrice3714 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Aug 4 18:35:57 UTC 2021

Please forgive the delay, I only recently happened upon your [Lawson’s]
reply to the post regarding *tada/tadau* ‘behold!, look!’, ‘look at the

I saw that you [Lawson] forwarded a text by Goethe featuring four musical
notes. The musical notes were as follows: /da da ta da/ (These same notes
appear in the English “translation” that you forwarded.)  You then
suggested (implicitly or otherwise) that this text – be it Goethe’s
original text or the “translation” -  was an early citation of *tada*
‘behold!’, ‘look!’, ‘look at the result!’. I address that below.  I also
sent the original Goethe text to a native German speaker from Hesse to have
it translated for good measure. The translator was generous enough to
translate the entire text, taking no artistic liberties – and gave me his
permission to post his translation here. I’ve included it at the end of
this post.

There is absolutely nothing in the original work by Goethe - nor in the
English author’s translation, for that matter - that can lead someone to
believe in good faith that what is meant there is the US’ /tada/ ‘behold!’,
‘look!’, ‘look at the result!’ – whether said twice in succession (Goethe
writes /da da ta da/) or once. As it pertains to the relevant verses –
i.e., that of Goethe’s “Singer” and “First Yager” – the stage direction is
identical in Goethe’s text and the translation (contrary to your earlier
claim). Goethe uses the German *intoni(e)rend* as stage direction which
bears the following semantic meaning(s):

a.     ‘to begin to sing, to break out in song, begin to play a song’ (p.c.)

b.     ‘sing or play the first few bars of something’ (Oxford)

c.     ‘start to sing or play something’ (Oxford)

d.     ‘play or sing the melody with clean/soft intonation’ (Oxford)

e.     ‘to intone something’ (i.e., ‘say or recite with little rise and
fall of the pitch of the voice’ (Oxford)

f.      ‘to tune (an instrument)’ (i.e., ‘to adjust (a musical instrument)
to the correct or uniform pitch’) (Oxford)

The English “translator” chose the ‘tune an instrument’ definition for
his/her translation. Thus, it is disingenuous to claim or suggest that the
stage direction in the English translation is somehow different from
Goethe’s text; it is not different – only its placement in the verse varies
from the original. Goethe places “intoni(e)rend” in parentheses just
*before* the musical notes /da da ta da/; the English translation features
the equivalent stage direction in italics immediately *after* the very same
musical notes. As an aside, based on the dialogue I am more inclined to
believe that Goethe intended one of the other definitions of intoni(e)rend
listed above (not that this matters to me, this is irrelevant as it
pertains to my point). I suspect that the intended meaning is “sing”

1.     Goethe first includes the opera stage direction *recitativo*,
defined as:  ‘musical declamation of the kind usual in the narrative and
dialogue parts of opera and oratorio, sung in the rhythm of ordinary speech
with many words on the same note’ (Oxford)

2.     The Singer states in *recitativo*:

Wo so viel Völker sich versammeln [Gloss: Where so many peoples gather]

Da mag ein jeder *singen* und stammeln [Gloss: Everyone may like to *sing*
and stammer.]

*(Intoni[e]rend)* [Gloss: Begin to sing or play something/Intone/Tune an

*Da dah! Ta dah!*

3.     The First Yager immediately states:

Ein narrisher Wicht! [Gloss: A foolish gnome!]

Der Kerl er *singt* schon wenn er *spricht*. [Gloss: The guy, he already
*sings* when he *speaks*.]


4.     There is no mention made of The Singer playing the zither anywhere
in the dialogue or stage directions. The zither is only explicitly
mentioned in the very beginning as being on The Singer’s person. Since
Goethe would have been well aware (as a native speaker of German) of the
confusion simply writing “intoni(e)rend” would’ve caused (given its
numerous definitions) – I would imagine that if he meant “tuning his
instrument” – which is quite different from the first or second definitions
listed above – that he would’ve written: “seine Zither intoni(e)rend”.

Whatever the case, whether a melody sung by The Singer or strummed on his
instrument, those musical notes clearly bear no semantic correspondence
with the US’ *tada* ‘behold!’, ‘look!’, ‘look at the result!’. There is
absolutely nothing in Goethe’s text that is being presented for one’s view
or gaze and absolutely nothing in Goethe’s text (nor in the translation)
that would make the US’ /tada/ ‘behold!’, ‘look!’, ‘look at the result!’
make sense semantically. So, it seems very disingenuous to present random
musical notes on this mailing list – sung or strummed – and claim (or
implicitly suggest) that it indicates a European origin for the Native
Black American (and US, for that matter) *tada/tadau* ‘behold!’, ‘look!’,
‘look at the result!’ The problematic nature of this sort of simplistic
reasoning, lack of intellectual curiosity, and patent disinterest in
Africanisms in the United States was the whole point of my original post.

I won’t abuse my own intelligence by equating shared orthographic form or
phonetic correspondence with actual semantic correspondence or shared
origin. I have no interest in random orthographic forms. (Even The Wedding
March is sung with those notes, it doesn’t indicate or suggest semantic
correspondence or shared origin!) And no linguist worth his or her salt can
base their arguments on mere shared orthographic forms and actually expect
to be taken seriously as a linguist or scholar.

Again, the approach of intellectual curiosity would involve, for example,
an analysis of the tone (since Kikongo is a tonal language, not that it is
very relevant in the transmission of Africanisms), vowel length, and
syllabic stress of the Kikongo *tala* / *tadi* ‘behold!’, ‘look!’, ‘look at
the result!’; and a search for evidence of other Bakongo/Kikongo (or other
African, for that matter) musical phrases or input in US
language/utterances, “showbusiness”, and carnival culture.

Instead, I’ve been implicitly asked to reimagine American music and musical
innovation as the product of “whites”,  questioned as to whether someone
had “Black friends”, presented with random musical notes/melody with no
semantic correspondence as supposed evidence of a European origin, and
implicitly asked to ignore the historical record (including the American
lexicographer’s/enthusiast’s much-preferred written citations), all in an
effort to assert Europe as a mythical point of origin for a Kikongo-derived
Africanism. (Thankfully, all of this is captured here for the historical
record.) I won’t engage in willful ignorance and intellectual indolence.

It is also disingenuous to present 19th century Europe on this mailing list
as if it was the last bastion of “Aryan purity”. Contrary to what is being
implicitly suggested in the preceding post regarding Goethe, Europe does
not live in a bubble and has not since at least the early colonial period.
Goethe’s own Weimar (located in Hesse) was frequented by Americans as
reflected in Goethe’s own diaries and the historical records of Hesse.
Moreover, Hesse (to which Goethe was native) has historical ties with the
United States and documented exposure to the musical traditions of the
early progenitors of Native Black Americans; when Hessians were
commissioned by the British and sent to the US to fight for the British
crown, the Black progenitors of Native Black Americans served in these
Hessian military regiments as soldiers and – notably –  military musicians.
Moreover, the progenitors of Native Black Americans (whether Africans or
“Creoles”) were enslaved in Europe, most notably in Britain. The Scots
dictionary has a number of words of clear African origin that only first
occur – predictably – during the Transatlantic Holocaust. I’m not even
going to touch on the known and well-documented evidence of Africans
enslaved in western Europe or living among the general populations of

This will be my last response (and visit) to this thread.

Kind regards,

Z. Sohna


*First Yager:*

There's another one coming across,

he is certainly from Italy.

*Second Yager:*

What do you want with your zither?

You look like a *Hochzeitbitter* [someone who handles invites to and
provides entertainment at a wedding]

*First Yager:*

The fool is so *bänderreich* [ornamented with lots of ribbons/bands],

his funny country you recognize immediately.


Your turmoil/riot/commotion, who wants that?

Be polite! Because I sing you something.

*Second Yager:*

Then we will hear something new;

but be careful not to disturb him!

*First Yager:*

Nothing new! Same old story!

He is in love, I already see it!


Where so many peoples gather,

everyone may like to sing and stammer.

Da dah! Ta dah!

*First Yager:*

A foolish gnome!

The guy, he already sings when he speaks.


I must go into the field, I want to avoid you,

even if my heart disagrees with me,

I will part from your nearness,

>From my love I cannot.

Into the field! That means not to avoid;

Because my soul does not part.

Yes, high pleasures await me

And I do my duty.

I want into the field! Why not part?

Yours be the tear, mine the duty.

Now farewell! It is not pain;

I remain yours! Forget me not.

*First Yager:*

Forget me not, that is a bad encounter!

Who wants to live, if he cannot forget?

Forget! Yes! Forget oneself

That is the art, that is how it shall be!

With enemies I've competed,

with girls, and with bottles of wine.

*Second Yager*

It is not right to disturb the Guest;

We want to hear that one more time.

To defeat the enemy, that is (a) joke.

And he who is still alive will always nibble,

There are girls, are bottles;

But be also have a sort of heart,

The little one shall move/touch us [by/while singing].

*First Yager*

I am already sleeping, let yourselves be seduced.


(repeats his song).

*Second Yager*

Quite right! The farewell is a game!

Now it will get serious and better and better [literally: always better]:

May your song be a sharp knife,

The [knife] point to the foe, the handle to me.

*Closing Chorus*

And so the poet has said the truth [literally: the true thing],

As we all now know.

You younglings are, as it now stands [?],

keen for the march and the dispute/conflict.

Remember us in the bloody battle,

And as you have accomplished the work/labor, the great one,

So bring us what you have taken from us.

*Singer (Solo, quasi parlando)*

Your presence [or present, as in time]

So dear and prized/valued!


So we sincerely welcome you [literally: So you are cordially/sincerely
welcome to us]


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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