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Ding A Derry

Posted by ESC on November 17, 2005

In Reply to: Ding A Derry posted by Victoria S Dennis on November 16, 2005

: : Sorry, the person who said the words Ding A Derry do not have meaning are very wrong. They do have meaning and I found that out the other day. First of all the words are not dingadairy as I had thought, but ding a derry. Now, break the words up is what I was always taught in school. Okay, ding has a meaning and we all know it. Ding means the sound of a bell like "Ding,Dong merrilly on high in heaven bells are ringing." or "Ding, Dong the witch is dead..." So, Ding means just that to ring out a merry sound.

: : Now, Derry is a word,too. Derry refers to the name of a man, or a type of land.

: : So, now put Ding a Derry together. What do you get? Ring a Land? Well, how about Ring merrily through the land. Or Wonderland. Since Alice in Wonderland was probably being made at the time through Walter Disney, MGM would have had to get copyright permission to sing the words Wonderland. So, you have Ding a derry....

: I'm afraid you're talking out of the back of your head. "Derry" is not "a type of land". Still less is it anything to do with "Wonderland". Apart from being the name of a town in Northern Ireland, and an (extremely rare) male forename, the Oxford English Dictionary simply describes it as "a nonsense word used in song refrains". It is is used in any number of folksong refrains throughout the English-speaking world, e.g. "hey ho the derry-o", "down down hey derry down" (or even Tolkien's Tom Bombadil singing "Hey! Come merry dol! derry dol!)" (VSD)

Wizard of Oz was on U.S. television twice over the weekend. I was staying at a hotel on business and had nothing better to do than watch it both times. I was wondering what that phrase meant.

"If I Only Had a Brain"

I would not be just a nuffin'
My head all full of stuffin'
My heart all full of pain
I would dance and be merry
Life would be a ding-a-derry
If I only had a brain

lyrics by EH Harburg and music by Harold Arlen

Cowardly Lion: I'd be brave as a blizzard....
Tin Man: I'd be gentle as a lizard....
Scarecrow: I'd be clever as a gizzard....
Dorothy:If the Wizard is a Wizard who will serve.
Scarecrow: Then I'm sure to get a brain,
Tin Man: A heart,
Dorothy: A home,
Lion: The nerve!

15.6. What's a "ding-a-derry"? Or a "gizzard"?

Let's just say that lyricist E. Y. Harburg was more concerned with how his words fit together and rhymed than that they were all real words and used properly! These are two examples of lyrics he made up for the songs, both sung by the Scarecrow. "Ding-a-derry" is something good, but I have no idea how clever a gizzard is. (I doubt that this is the same gizzard that is a part of a bird's digestive system!) Accessed November 16, 2