I say, "Tomato" and she's like, "Termar'er" - original song





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Uploaded on Nov 7, 2010

I have UCL's Emeritus Professor of Phonetics, John Wells, to thank for providing the catalyst that enabled me to complete this song, which I started to write two years ago. I heard him speaking on the radio last week about the way in which a number of modern pronunciations, hitherto generally regarded as 'wrong', have become sufficiently well established as to be 'right'. Among these were 'mischievious' (four syllables) as an alternative to 'mischievous' (three), and an audible aspirate at the start of the eighth letter of the alphabet. Both of these now supposedly acceptable pronunciations grate on my ear, but I'm grateful to Professor Wells for his citation of them, as they helped me to bring this song to completion.

My song is a loose adaptation of Ira and George Gerschwin's "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off". Whereas their original creation concerned itself with the cultural differences between a pair of young lovers, I am interested in the linguistic differences between the generations, a subject that has always fascinated me. What sparked my original attempt to write this song were conversations with one of my daughters, who, like many of her contemporaries, regularly replaces the word "said" with an elided form of "is like". Giving an account of a remembered conversation, whereas anyone born before 1980 would use "I said" and "she said", her generation prefers "I'm like" and "she's like" - an extraordinary grammatical change, but one that appears to have taken a very firm hold.

The song is intended as a piece of fun, but people often feel very strongly about linguistic change, frequently regarding it as evidence of declining standards. This is not just a recent view, but an attitude that has been common for generations! The English language changes and evolves, and will continue to do so, because it is a living language. If the subject interests you, you might care to pay a visit to an exhibition entitled "Evolving English" that opens at the British Library, In London, on November 10th. For more details, you can visit their website at http://www.bl.uk/whatson/exhibitions/...

I say, "Tomato," and she's like, "Termar'er;"
I say, "Potato," and she's like, "Perta'er."
"Tomato." - "Termar'er." "Potato." - "Wo'evah."
Let's call the whole thing off.

She's like, "Ipod," and I say, "Gramophone."
She's like, "Ring ya," and I say, "Telephone."
If I say I'm feeling gay,
Why does she look at me in that funny way?

Oh, how I rue ever telling her
She shouldn't drop her aitches!
She told me I was an 'ypocrite
For mispronouncing 'haitches'.

She's like, "Podcasts." I say, "Pardon?"
I say, "Wireless." She's like, "Wot?"
But if I say she's impolite;
Then she's like, "Sorry! -- Awight?"

I say, "Splendid," but she's like, "Wicked!"
I say "I'm weary," but she's like "Knackered."
I suppose it's just the modern way;
I can't get used to it, I have to say.

I can hear her music from the garage;
I call it the giddy limit.
But she's like, "It's called 'garridge',
And it's really massive, innit?"

I say, "Enjoy yourself." She's like, "Get a life!"
She loves her partner and I love my wife.
What more can we say?
How did things ever turn out this way?

This fighting must stop; it's too absurd;
The distance between us is only words.
On this much we agree:
I love my daughter and she loves me.

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