Wednesday Word Tangle: Why today is like Jazz and Stephen Fry

Actually a lot more interesting and beautiful than a dreary day in Bristol. Image: Pixabay

Actually a lot more interesting and beautiful than a dreary day in Bristol.
Image: Pixabay

Oh, lor, it’s one of those days.

If you’re a Brit, you’ll know exactly what I mean. It’s a dismal day, a day when you have to resist the temptation to keep the lights on 24/7 so you can see what you’re doing and don’t end up tripping over the cat / toddler / pile of Lego bricks on the carpet.

Now, if you live in one of those blessed places where the sun shines most of the year, where the light sparkles through an azure sky onto a similarly blinding sapphire sea – allow me to describe what the British weather is like for 52%* of the year.

Imagine.

It’s day time. You know this because your alarm rudely rattled you awake a couple of hours ago and it’s definitely lighter than it was when you got up for a wee at mignight. But the sky is so flat and featureless you can imagine skimming a stone on it. It’s not a flat, cloudless blue, but a flat cloud-filled grey – think of a pair of knickers that have been stuck on an endless ‘delicates’ wash with a new pair of Levi’s and you’ll know what I mean.

On days like these, the house is never quite free of shadows. Every corner could hide a something – invertebrate, mammalian, alien, you don’t know, but you sure as hell don’t want to stick your hand in to find out.

It’s what you’d call (Wednesday Word Tangle coming up)

GLOOMY

I like the word gloomy – maybe it’s that double ‘o’ sound, but it suits the meaning. You sound depressed just saying it.

Its derivation seems unclear, though ‘gloom’ is probably from a Scottish word for ‘sullen look’, which fits a day when even the weather seems to be sulking. Though, it’s not linked to ‘gloaming’, the Scots for twilight, which is a shame. (Think we should have a Gaelic translation of Stephenie Meyer’s books called Gloaming? Quite like that idea.)

The word always reminds me of jazz music and Stephen Fry.

No, I don’t get depressed when listening to either – if I could persuade Stephen Fry to narrate the interior dialogue to my life I would. It’s because it was on QI that I first heard of Billie Holiday’s recording of Gloomy Sunday.

On first listen, it’s no more depressing than say Strange Fruit – a song describing the lynching of African Americans in the Deep South – but Gloomy Sunday has been dubbed the Hungarian Suicide Song.

Well, to be fair the lyrics are sung from the point of view of someone contemplating suicide, there have been several stories of people committing suicide after / whilst listening to the song – and the composer (a Hungarian called Rezső Seress) threw himself from the top of an apartment block in 1968.

So my advice today?

Put the lights on. Make yourself a hot chocolate. 

And avoid jazz.


*I learnt this statistic from a Bill Bailey DVD. I have no idea if it’s correct, but it feels correct 🙂

Thanks, as always to the lovely Kat, the founder of W4W

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18 thoughts on “Wednesday Word Tangle: Why today is like Jazz and Stephen Fry

  1. I remember watching that episode of QI too! What dreadful songs!
    I love the derivation of the word, it perfectly fits.
    And, living in Ireland, I am only too familiar with the worn knicker colour sky! (Brilliant analogy there!)
    We have a saying over here for those days where there is a constant misty drizzle… we say it is a “soft day” which I think is a lovely description.
    Thanks for being EASILY my most loyal contributor to W4W Lynn!
    Hugs x

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    1. Yes, Gloomy Sunday is not my favourite, though I do like her voice. And Strange Fruit has a dreaful subject matter, but feels like a brave, rebellious act – a black woman criticising the actions of whites at a time when you could be lynched just for being black. I remember my Irish Catholic step Gran (called Mary, funnily enough) using the phrase a ‘Soft day’. It’s lyrical, isn’t it? Mind you, she also taught me ‘pogue mahone’ and other choice phrases I can’t quite remember …

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      1. You should do a post on Irish turns of phrase – you’re such a country of poets 🙂 And Granny Mary was … interesting. Don’t think she liked me much, but that was probably fair enough during my teens 🙂

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  2. Hello from soggy, sodden Shropshire. And thanks for the Billy Holiday fix. I don’t find her at all depressing despite subject matter – consumate artistry will OUT – and that’s always good for inclinations to dreary spiritedness.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello from dreary Bristol 🙂 Billie was extraordinary, wasn’t she? Not a happy life – a very tough beginning and a sad end, but a woman with real guts. And a beautiful, soulful voice. Thanks for reading, Tish.

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  3. Our skies give us lots of sullen looks out here in Seattle, the Pacific Northwest of the U.S., too. This is the time of year when it starts to get really gloomy. I wonder why I’m getting up in the dark, sending the kids off to school in the dark….

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    1. Ah, yes. I’ve heard that about Seattle – an overcast city, just like the whole of the UK 🙂 I wonder if that’s why Grunge developed their – all of those brooding skies … I do think it affects our temperaments, living under grey clouds so much. I wonder how different I’d be if I’d grown up in Florida? 🙂

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  4. Gloomy, a good word for an ill feeling. And it’s true, the comment about Seattle and the grunge, and how the weather affects us, I think. I don’t know many good, broody bands from San Diego, where it’s always sunny. Why go inside and do art when you have the ocean, and the sun?
    I feel lucky I’ve found a way to love it, the seasons, and how they have their own character and charm. But it does get old, for sure. Writing this from dark and gloomy Inverness, where I haunted some side streets and skipped upon some puddles like a ghost, on my way to and fro the pub, and some would swear they saw me there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, lovely – you slipped into the poetic there 🙂
      I wonder if they should give a mood warning with the weather forecast – ‘Today will be sad with outbreaks of melancholia in the afternoon’?
      Yep, you have to love the change in season or be ground down by it – peeing down here today too..

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  5. I’m not certain I could handle gloomy weather on a constant basis.
    I heard about the Hungarian Suicide Song a few years ago on a tv program, I think it was called Dark Matters. I was fascinated by the story but never followed up on it. Thanks for reminding me of its existence!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you certainly need a bit of light to alleviate the darkness. Maybe that’s why so many countries in the North, the cold gloomy countries rely on alcohol so muc – it’s bottled light when all around is darkness 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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