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Author Topic: Semantics  (Read 1292 times)

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triskel

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Semantics
« on: December 25, 2017, 11:22:14 AM »

I know "the bird has flown the coop" on this one, and now all button boxes are described as "melodeons" in Great Britain, but it didn't always used to be that way and, though people may find it hard to accept, when I first became interested in our instruments there were distinctions made in England between button-key accordions, Vienna accordions/Vienna models and melodeons/melodions. Indeed I now have a prominent English accordion dealer's flyer from the 1960s (see image) that illustrates that perfectly...

It was current vocabulary that I learned off players and dealers then, not some historical anachronism or pedantry.

I wonder how, or why, they've all become known as melodeons?

(There could be a thesis, or a research article in this, for somebody... )
« Last Edit: December 25, 2017, 01:53:31 PM by triskel »
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GPS

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Re: Semantics
« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2017, 05:43:24 PM »

Couldn't tell you the linguistic history, but I can say with absolute certainty that in the West Midlands (which didn't exist as an administrative unit then - Birmingham was still in Warwickshire) in the mid to late 60s when I started playing, accordion meant piano accordion and anything with buttons was called a melodeon.  At least in the circles I moved in........

Graham
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george garside

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Re: Semantics
« Reply #2 on: December 25, 2017, 07:57:52 PM »

when I started in the late 50's my double ray was sold as an 'accordion'  by a large Manchester accordion dealer. Melodeon was only applied to a one row box.  Maybe the generic use of the term 'melodeon' for any small button box gained popularity  with the coming of the DG setup.??

george
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squeezy

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Re: Semantics
« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2017, 01:25:57 AM »

Language is a brilliant dynamic thing.  Words mean what they mean because people who say them mean certain things ... it changes over time ... and they mean different things in different areas because of this.  Trying to preserve language in stone never works and I celebrate that fact.

Melodeon is the word chosen by those in most (but not all of) Great Britain to mean pushy-pully button accordions.  It didn't mean that in the past, and it may not mean that in the future.  In much the same way I never thought I'd hear the word "tea-bag" refer to something dirty - and "sick" definitely didn't mean anything good when "I were a lad".

We are all just old farts waiting to happen.  And then it happens.
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Squeezy

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baz parkes

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Re: Semantics
« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2017, 03:02:20 PM »

Couldn't tell you the linguistic history, but I can say with absolute certainty that in the West Midlands (which didn't exist as an administrative unit then - Birmingham was still in Warwickshire) in the mid to late 60s when I started playing, accordion meant piano accordion and anything with buttons was called a melodeon.  At least in the circles I moved in........

Graham

And in the Black Country...or The North West Midlands Industrial Conurbation as they tried to call it.. :|glug
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Tone Dumb Greg

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Re: Semantics
« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2017, 09:22:07 PM »


We are all just old farts waiting to happen.  And then it happens.

That's better than being an old fart waiting to happen and suddenly find out it all happened while you were taking a nap.
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Greg Smith
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Grape Ape

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Re: Semantics
« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2017, 02:09:53 AM »

Squeezy, that is some well stated business.

Here in the states, I have to remember not to refer to it as a melodeon, as most people have no idea what one is, and the few that do picture something more along the lines of a pump organ. 


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Rob2Hook

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Re: Semantics
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2017, 09:51:31 AM »

It always makes for a difficult conversation when someone asks what it is... and probably only out of politeness.  They're expecting a one word answer but instead get a potted history of the accordion family.

I was rather taken with the flyer.  Apart from the Soprani, there was no indication of the provenance of the other instruments and the terminology within the descriptions varied presumably according to the manufacturers' marketing blurb.  Basically seem to be low quality mail order instruments, though.  I wish they'd had a picture of the "waterproof satchel" to suit the Soprani.

Rob.
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Mutt

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Re: Semantics
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2017, 07:54:09 PM »

Here in the states, I have to remember not to refer to it as a melodeon, as most people have no idea what one is, and the few that do picture something more along the lines of a pump organ.

Yup.  However, people in the States also tend to think anything pushy-pully is a concertina.  That's why I tell people I'm playing an "English Melodeon."  It's something they've not heard of to match something they've never seen, so they're usually satisfied.
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Martin P

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Re: Semantics
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2017, 10:00:56 AM »

Following the lead of Mr Cutting (influenced by his French friends no doubt ), I try to describe my instrument as a Button Accordion. Professionally I have a similar dilemma being English. My job title is Optometrist but in UK I need to clarify this by adding “Optician”. Then just like Accordions I have to explain differences between various types of Optician. Anywhere else in English speaking world they would know exactly what my job is as an Optometrist. I know Engineers have the same problem.

I know it has be said before, but really this forum should be BA.net, but then we might get flight enquiries!
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Chris Brimley

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Re: Semantics
« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2017, 11:19:09 AM »

Me too - it's an accordion, it's got buttons, so it's a button accordion.  That's all most people want to know. 

Of course, when the client comes up to you at the beginning of the gig and says, "What instrument do you play?", I could of course reply, "I'm glad you asked me that!  Actually, it's a ..... ", etc.

But somehow that never seems appropriate.
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Gary Chapin

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Re: Semantics
« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2017, 03:06:52 PM »

Here in the states, I have to remember not to refer to it as a melodeon, as most people have no idea what one is, and the few that do picture something more along the lines of a pump organ.

Yes, I just received a query through my blog, someone wanting to know what to do with this "melodeon" they had gotten at an estate sale, but one of the legs had cracked ...? I let her know that it was a harmonium.

I always get the "so that's an accordion?" question at gigs. I say merely, "Yeah, there are a bunch of different kinds of accordion." Usually that's enough for them. Occasionally it becomes a cool conversation.
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pgroff

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Re: Semantics
« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2017, 03:38:33 PM »

Here in the states, I have to remember not to refer to it as a melodeon, as most people have no idea what one is, and the few that do picture something more along the lines of a pump organ.

Yes, I just received a query through my blog, someone wanting to know what to do with this "melodeon" they had gotten at an estate sale, but one of the legs had cracked ...? I let her know that it was a harmonium.

I always get the "so that's an accordion?" question at gigs. I say merely, "Yeah, there are a bunch of different kinds of accordion." Usually that's enough for them. Occasionally it becomes a cool conversation.

Gary,

Actually, for some American reed organs, the name "melodeon" is correct and the name "harmonium" would be incorrect.   Depending on what she has, it's conceivable that an apology might be in order!

PG
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mselic

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Re: Semantics
« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2017, 03:39:26 PM »

Generally, here in Canada, if an instrument has bellows the average non-player would refer to it as an accordion. Melodeon is a term that might only be used by the odd Irish player referring to a one-row button accordion.  Otherwise, what we play would be called a diatonic button accordion, or simply button accordion.
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boxcall

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Re: Semantics
« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2017, 04:18:58 PM »

Of course, when the client comes up to you at the beginning of the gig and says, "What instrument do you play?"
I usually hear "I like the sound of your concertina" Then I try to explain the differences and all the different accordion configurations until the glaze starts to appear in their eyes, then I figure my work is done :||:
The same thing happens when I try to explain music theory to most folks. (with my limited knowledge)

I've also been asked to explain to people at ceilidhs about the instrument I play, I keep it simple ( push get one note pull get another etc.)and call it a button accordion/ melodeon, enough said.
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Gary Chapin

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Re: Semantics
« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2017, 04:20:19 PM »

Depending on what she has, it's conceivable that an apology might be in order!

Well, that's always the case for me!  :P :||:
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brianread

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Re: Semantics
« Reply #16 on: December 29, 2017, 04:39:08 PM »

Of course, when the client comes up to you at the beginning of the gig and says, "What instrument do you play?"
I usually hear "I like the sound of your concertina" Then I try to explain the differences and all the different accordion configurations until the glaze starts to appear in their eyes, then I figure my work is done :||:
The same thing happens when I try to explain music theory to most folks. (with my limited knowledge)

I've also been asked to explain to people at ceilidhs about the instrument I play, I keep it simple ( push get one note pull get another etc.)and call it a button accordion/ melodeon, enough said.

Saying that it works "just like a mouth organ" works quite well sometimes (I just had this conversation with my Sister In Law about 2 hours ago!).
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Brian Read
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Edward Jennings

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Re: Semantics
« Reply #17 on: December 29, 2017, 04:47:14 PM »

Do you mean a "harp", Brian. That's what they seem to be called hereabouts, but I don't know why. (Sorry about any thread drift.)
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triskel

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Re: Semantics
« Reply #18 on: December 29, 2017, 05:19:02 PM »

Here in the states, I have to remember not to refer to it as a melodeon, as most people have no idea what one is, and the few that do picture something more along the lines of a pump organ.

Yes, I just received a query through my blog, someone wanting to know what to do with this "melodeon" they had gotten at an estate sale, but one of the legs had cracked ...? I let her know that it was a harmonium.

Actually, for some American reed organs, the name "melodeon" is correct and the name "harmonium" would be incorrect.   Depending on what she has, it's conceivable that an apology might be in order!

In fact if it's an antique reed organ on legs then it almost certainly is a melodeon. Harmoniums are usually bulkier and in cabinets that look rather like a chiffonier (sideboard) of the day - something I've seen contempoary references to.

And if it is a melodeon it will work on suction, rather than on pressure, which is the major difference between American organs and harmoniums.

The name melodeon was only "borrowed" from the small American organ on legs in 1878 by Campbell's of Glasgow, who started to describe the German accordions they were marketing as melodeons.
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boxcall

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Re: Semantics
« Reply #19 on: December 29, 2017, 05:48:32 PM »

Do you mean a "harp", Brian. That's what they seem to be called hereabouts, but I don't know why. (Sorry about any thread drift.)

AKA-harmonica over here but that's another thread (:)

Brian, I've used that also. It's assuming they know how that works.
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