Tuesday, April 21, 2009

ill wind


They say that the oboist dinned
when he blew a most evil wind,
though fiddles with no bow’s
are safer than oboes
when the players have not yet been tune-ined.

Introducing the Australian oboist Nicholas Daniel, Jim Svejda cited Danny Kaye when perhaps he should have cited Ogden Nash:
In "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," comedian Danny Kaye once sang that an oboe was an "ill wind that no one blows good.""Here's what the language mavens who put out Random House's "Word of the Day" have to say about this pressing matter:"This play on words is variously said to be about the clarinet, the French horn, or the oboe. It has been attributed to - among others - Duke Ellington, Ogden Nash, Sir Thomas Beacham, Danny Kaye, and Danny Kaye's wife, Sylvia Fine, who wrote the songs for all his movies. In truth, it was probably around before any of them. But whoever said it first, the words that ring in my ears were sung in 1947 by Danny Kaye in the movie 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty': 'And the oboe it is clearly understood / Is anill wind that no one blows good.'" "

It's an ill wind that blows (nobody) no good is a "naval proverb" that was listed in John Heywood's 1546 book of proverbs: An ill wind that bloweth no man TO good. And it was used by Shakespeare in Henry VI, Part Three (1581).
Some claim that the witticism derives from lines written by Ogden Nash:"The oboe's a horn made of wood.I'd play you a tune if I could,But the reeds are a pain,And the fingering's insane.It's the ill wind that no one blows good."

© 2009 Gershon Hepner 4/20/09

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