Saturday, July 31, 2010

Terpsichore


Sandi wrote that she was listening to some old Frank Sinatra albums the other night, and she heard a word in one of the lyrics that stumped her. It showed up in the song Come Dance With Me: “What an evening for some terpsichore.”

Terpsichore was one of the nine Greek muses, and her venue was dance. Her name came from two Greek words — τέρπω (delight) and χoρός (dance). In time, the word came to mean the art of the dance.

Terpsichore is properly pronounced turp-sick-uh-ree, so when I found a sound clip of the song online, I was surprised to hear Frank pronouncing it as turp-si-core. It certainly looks like that’s the way it would sound, but its Greek origin militates against that. I don’t know if Sinatra was at fault or if the songwriters (Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn) were.

In context, we have “Come dance with me, come dance with me, what an evening for some Terpsichore.” My take is that “some Terpsichore” was meant to rhyme with “come dance with me.” However, if Van Heusen and Cahn thought that turp-si-core was correct, then they may have rhymed it with “what an evening for.”

Can any student of music clarify this?

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