Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Words. What they mean. Who owns them.

"Happy birthday to you", the song, has been set free! Now we can all sing it without having to worry about breaching copyright and possibly having to pay royalties. Who knew that we had all been singing it illegally all these years? It's a bit like sayingthat nursery rhymes are copyrighted!

Apparently two sisters sort of composed it back in the 19th century. Some company or other copyrighted in the 1930s. They were bought out by the Warner Chappell music company in 1988 and that company have been collecting royalties every time the song has appeared in a film, a television or radio programme or indeed anywhere open to the public or where a large number of those present were not close friends or family of the birthday boy or girl. In 2008 they collected US$5,000 per day, US$2 million over the year! Now there has been a court case because someone protested about having to pay royalties because she was making a documentary about the song. And the final decision has been that the song is now free as a bird once more!! Huzzah!!! What more can one say? 

It's all words. 

Our Italian teacher was busy maintaining today that there are loads of words in English usage that have no equivalent in Italian but have to be sort of explained. This was because someone asked how you say "creepy". Answer: you talk round it and say something like "which makes you shudder". I wonder what they do with "dingy". 

Then we got onto "macché". An almost untranslatable Italian word. It can be as simple as "Oh, no!". It might be "Nonsense!". Or it can be "What the .... (insert expletive, as mild or as strong and disgusting as you like)!". 

Every language has such expressions. Sometimes they even need explaining to native speakers. Here's an example: 

Why do we call manual workers, men who dig up roads and such, navvies? Well, quite accidentally, reading about something else altogether, I found out. Canals were originally called navigations. The men who dug them, many of them Irish, were given the nickname navvies. Hence manual workers are called navvies. 

That's words for you!

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