Sunday, June 09, 2002


"One particularly niggling piece of Unfinished Business, it occurred to me the other day in the middle of a singing session with my five-year-old daughter, is the lyrics to "Do-Re-Mi," from The Sound of Music. It doesn't exactly rank as a global crisis, but nevertheless it brings me up short anytime I hear it, and it shouldn't be that difficult to sort it out.

But it is.


Each line of the lyric takes the name of a note from the sol-fa scale, and gives its meaning: "Do (doe), a deer, a female deer; Re (ray), a drop of golden sun," etc..."La, a note to follow so..." What? Excuse me? "La, a note to follow so..." What kind of a lame excuse for a line is that?

Well, it's obvious what kind of a line it is. It's a placeholder. A placeholder is what a writer puts in when he can't think of the right line or idea just at the moment, but he'd better put in something and come back and fix it later. So I imagine that Oscar Hammerstein just bunged in "a note to follow so" and thought he'd have another look at it in the morning.

Only, when he came to have another look at it in the morning, he couldn't come up with anything better...One can imagine rehearsels looming. Recording dates. Maybe he'd be able to fix it on the day. Maybe one of the cast would come up with the answer. But no. No one manages to fix it. And gradually a lame placeholder of a line became locked in place and is now formally part of the song, part of the movie, and so on."

- Douglas Adams, Salmon of Doubt.
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