Monday 8 March 2021

Violins and Fiddlesticks


I have, in my solitude, taken up playing the violin. Fiddling while Rome does not burn. I have long suspected that the only thing I truly grasp is nonsense, now it is fiddlesticks.

Violin is the diminutive of viola, and viola come from the Latin vitula which meant stringed instrument, and vitula was named after Vitula, the Goddess of Joy. This is presumably on the basis that playing music makes you joyful, a hypothesis I have disproved by experiment. 

The Romans, it seems, exported their vitulas to the Old High Germans. The Old High Germans pronounced the V as an F (quite forgivable as they are similar sounds) and also pronounced the T as a D (likewise forgivable), and the result was that they called it a fidula, and the English ended up calling it a fiddle

Anyway, the English started fiddling, moving their hands and fingers around whilst trying to summon back the last screams of the dying cat. The result was the more common verb fiddle meaning to move your hands about pointlessly. 

So pointless was it all, so very unpointed, that the bows of violins, the fiddlesticks, became by the C17th an exclamation meaning stuff and nonsense, nonsense and stuff. 

And thus, what was once joy is now fiddlesticks.

The Inky Fool throws a party


  1. However, you DO grasp sense. I've heard your wisdom and dub thee unfiddlestickerous, your pointed demeanor hides unsuccessfully with wry random wit. I believe true comedy to be your target, a comedy created of knowledge quite aside from ignorance the king.

  2. When I brought my violin home from the shop in advance of my first lesson, the fiddlestick would not make a sound on the strings, for the salesman had neglected to explain the need for rosin!
    P.S. More videos please, Mark. Thanks to you I've memorized I wandered lonely... and one third of Kubla Khan.

  3. I'm an ex-viola player. As such, always being in short supply, mostly, I expect because of the jokes and general mockery, I tended to be playing in orchestras way above my capabilities.
    So I learnt the art of levitational fiddlestickery. That is, getting your fingers roughly in the right places, while keeping the bow about a half-inch off the strings. Don't think I ever got found out.