Do Ti La Sol Fa Mi Re Do!
Beautifully done! (and yes, it is Sol, not So!)
Even if you haven’t seen The Sound of Music, you’re probably quite familiar with this little method of assigning syllables to the seven major musical notes.
It’s known as solfège, and is used to help a musician distinguish between different pitches of notes. It’s not something I’d ever given much thought about until one day, likely while I was living in Belgium, I saw The Sound of Music dubbed into French…
All was going fine, and then it got to the scene where they sing “Do-Re-Mi” for the first time – Do, then Re, then Mi, and so on, nothing unusual. Until after La, they sang… Si.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Si! It just sounded wrong. I knew, deep down, that logically I shouldn’t have any problem with it. It still fits, in terms of rhythm, and how different does it really sound to Ti?
But I was just so used to hearing Ti that my brain just refused to accept Si.
I tried to step back and be objective, and consider that there might be sound (pun not intended, but enjoy it) reasons for using Si instead of Ti. I’ve mentioned before that some sounds just don’t feature in other languages, and can therefore be difficult to say for speakers of those languages. But no, that couldn’t be the case with Ti, for French speakers. It’s perfectly easy for a French speaker to say, even in the context of the song.
The song… the song… that was it!
They had to change it to Si for the lyrics which say what each syllable stands for: Re, a drop of golden sun, for example. And si is a word in French, many words in fact: it can mean if, or so, or it can be a positive response to a negative question. So I looked up the lyrics to the French translation of the song…
Si, c’est siffler comme un merle.
Which means Si, it’s listening/whistling like a blackbird.
Now, I’m not an expert on blackbirds and the sounds they make, but couldn’t Ti suffice to represent their song? Did they really need to change Ti to Si, to get that authentic blackbird sound?
Perhaps we’ll never know why they changed it. Perhaps it was just to differentiate it from English. I guess I could keep googling, but, eh…
Now, it still replaces Ti with Si. And si is a word in Italian, meaning of course, yes (ti is also a word by the way, meaning at/to you – singular!) The line is…
Si, se non ti dico no (Yes, if I don’t tell you no.)
OK, now that makes sense! Think about that, French.
Actually, the song overall’s not bad for learning Italian. It teaches you the difference between mi and me, for example, which is very useful.
Now if only I could sing…