Glorishears.

My local NPR station was just playing Gustav Holst’s Second Suite in F for Military Band (I’m always surprised it’s by Holst, because it sounds more like Percy Grainger or somebody, and I always turn up the volume when it gets to “Swansea Town” because what a great tune!); I looked it up and discovered (no doubt not for the first time) that one of the tunes he used is called “Glorishears,” which struck me as an odd name, so I looked that up. Apparently it’s also called “Glorishear” and “Glorisher,” and this site says:

The term glorishears is from the Cromwellian Protectorate (?); it is a condensation of “The Glorious Years.” The tune was specified for several ballads, says Paul Burgess, most titled “The Glorious Years of …(regent or monarch).” From the village of Bampton, Oxfordshrire, in England’s Cotswolds.

I have to heartily second that question mark — barring hard evidence which doesn’t seem to exist, it sounds like the folkiest of folk etymologies. But you never know, so I’m tossing it out there in case anyone has something to say about it.

Comments

  1. Stu Clayton says:

    A question mark in parenthesis conventionally signals that the writer is not sure about what immediately precedes it. What I took it to mean here is that the writer doesn’t know what “the Cromwellian Protectorate” is, and couldn’t find out (in pre-internet times ??). I don’t know why he would think it is important to let the reader know that, so I may be wrong – but that’s how I read it. I suppose the question mark is actually intended to question the claim that the word was created during the Protectorate.

  2. The bit that makes me turn up the volume is “The Dargason” in the finale — another marvellous tune with an intriguingly obscure name. (He did it better when he re-worked that movement for the St Pauls Suite, though.)

  3. David L says:

    According to this page, the tune is from Bledington, Gloucestershire (also in the Cotswolds) and celebrates the ‘glorious years’ of Queen Victoria.

    Close enough!

    I grew up in Oxfordshire and I can imagine a local saying ‘glorious years’ something like ‘glorishears,’ but I don’t know if that counts as definitive evidence.

  4. I’m afraid that just counts as “reason it works as a folk etymology.”

    A question mark in parenthesis conventionally signals that the writer is not sure about what immediately precedes it. What I took it to mean here is that the writer doesn’t know what “the Cromwellian Protectorate” is, and couldn’t find out

    Yes, that’s a more logical reading, but it seemed unlikely; in any case, I was just pleased to see a signal of dubiety somewhere in there.

  5. David L says:

    I was joking about the definitive evidence…

    It would make more sense, historically speaking, for the tune to be from the Cromwellian era. Oxford and the Cotswolds were the last stronghold of the Royalists, so the locals would have reason to compose a dance about the ‘glorious years’ before Cromwell, and then fiendishly disguise the title as ‘glorishears’ so that the fun-hating Roundheads would have no idea at all what they were singing and dancing about.

    Hey, this folk etymology stuff is a piece of cake!

  6. If someone did not know what the Cromwellian Protectorate was, I cannot see how they could offer any informed opinion about whether the word dated to the relevant period.

  7. On the other hand, and without knowing anything about this specific example, the names of folk dance tunes do become corrupted, because like the tunes, they’re mostly passed on by ear. You see it in old musicians’ manuscripts – tunes under a variety of similar names, misremembered or misheard, tunes under the name of the dance done to them or the first line of the new song set to them, tunes under the name of the different tune the musician confused them with…

    It’s still happens now – there’s a tune called ‘Skipping over the Bogs’ which an old teacher of mine heard in a noisy pub as ‘Tripping over the Box’ and wrote out for a class that way before she found out her mistake, and another called ‘Stan Chapman’s Jig’ which started life with an entirely different name before everyone started associating it with the fiddler who mostly played it.

    I take the question mark as doubt over the ‘Cromwellian Protectorate’ bit, of the someone thinks they’ve been told that type.

  8. the names of folk dance tunes do become corrupted

    Sure, as do words (and pretty much everything). The problem is that there are an infinite number of things a given word or name could have become corrupted (or, better, changed) from, it’s easy to come up with any number of possibilities (we humans are good at that sort of thing), and the only way to know what a given word or name is actually changed from is to have hard historical evidence.

  9. Well, yes, but it does seem to be a particularly active field for it – alternative names seem to be the rule rather than the exception, and because the names aren’t necessarily expected to make sense there’s plenty of scope for imagination!

    I’m sceptical myself, but I think my progression from ‘this person who presumably knows more about the subject than me says there is evidence’ (in the form of the same tune published as a song under a ‘Glorious Years’ name) to ‘I haven’t found that evidence’ to ‘therefore no evidence exists’ is just a bit slower than yours.

  10. Oh, I’m not saying no evidence exists — I just haven’t seen it yet!

  11. J.W. Brewer says:

    My favorite name for a traditional English folk tune (allegedly concocted to win a bet for longest title to be actually printed on a record label) is of course “Sir B. McKenzie’s Daughter’s Lament For The 77th Mounted Lancers’ Retreat From The Straits Of Loch Knombe, In The Year Of Our Lord 1727, On The Occasion Of The Announcement Of Her Marriage To The Laird Of Kinleakie” (used by Fairport Convention for a b-side in 1970). Think of how that one could get garbled and snowclonely reinterpreted given a few centuries!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoRkFGovNCM

  12. David Marjanović says:

    On the other hand, and without knowing anything about this specific example, the names of folk dance tunes do become corrupted, because like the tunes, they’re mostly passed on by ear. You see it in old musicians’ manuscripts – tunes under a variety of similar names, misremembered or misheard, tunes under the name of the dance done to them or the first line of the new song set to them, tunes under the name of the different tune the musician confused them with…

    Somewhat similarly, Für Elise is actually Für Therese because Beethoven had terrible handwriting.

  13. Ha! I never knew that.

  14. Maybe, and then again maybe not.

  15. marie-lucie says:

    Neither did I.

  16. If all-knowing Wikipedia is to be believed, there are 3 candidates for the “dedicatee”, two of whom are some sort of Elises. The manuscript is lost.

  17. Bah. My new-found knowledge sinks again beneath the waves.

  18. Scientific knowledge is like that. Yet overall the enterprise continues to float.

  19. David Marjanović says:

    Why shouldn’t it mean “glorious years”, actually?

  20. There’s no reason it “shouldn’t”; the question is whether it does. There’s no reason “posh” shouldn’t come from “port out, starboard home,” but it doesn’t.

  21. David Marjanović says:

    There’s no reason “posh” shouldn’t come from “port out, starboard home,” but it doesn’t.

    There is: acronyms becoming words like this is practically unheard of before the 20th century, and rare even now. In contrast, “the glorious years of” becoming a genre of music is hardly stranger than “the life of” or “the deeds of” becoming genres of literature (vita, gesta/res gestae).

  22. Also “making of”, which has become the name of a movie genre.

  23. In contrast, “the glorious years of” becoming a genre of music is hardly stranger

    You’re missing the point. Of course it’s not “strange”; folk etymologies (in contrast to real ones) never are — otherwise the folk wouldn’t invent them. Non-strangeness is not, repeat not, a sign that a proposed etymology is real (though of course it’s also not a sign that it isn’t; it’s simply irrelevant).

  24. David Marjanović says:

    All I’m saying is that this is a reasonably probable hypothesis, which is important given the absence of any other so far.

  25. No it is not! It is plausible, not probable; that difference is the difference between folk etymology and the real thing. The absence of rigorously sourced hypotheses does not make unsourced ones magically more probable.

  26. David Marjanović says:

    I’m saying we can’t dismiss it, very much unlike the acronym etymology for posh, which is improbable from the start.

  27. But if there were evidence for it, its improbability would be meaningless. I’m perfectly happy to dismiss anything for which there is no evidence, until such time as there is.

  28. David Marjanović says:

    Ultimately, “evidence for” is always a parsimony argument, too…

    …by which I mean that if there’s evidence for it, even stronger evidence for an alternative could still surface. That’s a very common situation in my experience (including my work).

  29. I think, it depends on the alternatives. If we know that there are few alternatives to a proposition than even a shaky evidence for it (like “it sounds similar and sort of makes sense”) is good. But if we are laboring against the ocean of potential possibilities, it just seems like finding patterns in noise, which we are very good at.

  30. it just seems like finding patterns in noise, which we are very good at.

    Exactly. That is my baseline for judging all such matters, and has been ever since I realized just how powerful a lure “finding patterns” is for my species. I want hard evidence, and I turn a deaf ear to alluring speculation.

  31. Under most circumstances, evidence that something is plausible means a modest increase in the probability that it is true. As has already been noted, if there are only a small number of possible causes for X, then the high plausibility of cause A is useful (but not definitive) evidence in favor of A. On the other hand, if there are many possible causes for X, then the plausibility of one particular one has very little probative value.

    However, there are circumstances when finding only evidence of A’s plausibility actually militates against A being the cause of X. This occurs, for example, when you go looking for evidence of the cause of X and find nothing that conclusively links A to X. As a concrete, and very damaging, example of where this was understood, take the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Searching for evidence of a chemical weapons program in Iraq, the U.N. inspectors, surveillance equipment, and on-the-ground intelligence assets turned up many instances where the conditions were consistent with there being chemical weapons. However, despite the extensive search, no smoking gun was found, and the significance of this was totally misunderstood. In short: Finding only plausible/suggestive evidence for A, when you have searched deeply enough that you ought to have found definitive evidence for A, is actually reason to believe that A is not true.

  32. David Marjanović says:

    Searching for evidence of a chemical weapons program in Iraq, the U.N. inspectors, surveillance equipment, and on-the-ground intelligence assets turned up many instances where the conditions were consistent with there being chemical weapons. However, despite the extensive search, no smoking gun was found, and the significance of this was totally misunderstood.

    That’s not at all how I remember it. Evidence of absence was found again and again wherever the inspectors went, the Bush administration simply ignored that and kept claiming the WMD must have been moved somewhere else again, faking evidence based on that infamous term paper about yellowcake and sending Colin Powell to lie his ass off before the UN. The New York Times fell for it, while media elsewhere were more like “lolwut?”. But W wanted his war, told the inspectors to get out before the bombs would drop on their heads, and the rest is history.

    I still don’t understand how anyone at the NYT, where you’d expect plenty of experience in journalism, fell for such blatant bogus.

  33. Stu Clayton says:

    That is my baseline for judging all such matters, and has been ever since I realized just how powerful a lure “finding patterns” is for my species. I want hard evidence, and I turn a deaf ear to alluring speculation.

    Turning a deaf ear to alluring speculation can be risky – to do so is itself an alluring temptation. I myself listen to speculation closely, in order to understand how I can remain calm while others around me are losing their heads. Keep an eye out for those lures !

  34. Stu Clayton says:

    many instances where the conditions were consistent with there being chemical weapons.

    Not finding what you’re looking for is consistent with its being there, as well as with its not being there. “Consistent with” is a weasel expression for “still no evidence one way or the other”.

  35. David Marjanović says:

    Turning a deaf ear to alluring speculation can be risky – to do so is itself an alluring temptation.

    Oh, that reminds me. For much of the 20th century, ornithologists were sure that raptors and owls couldn’t possibly be closely related, because that would be too easy. Rather, the owls were thought to be closely related to the frogmouths and suchlike. Likewise, Old and New World vultures being closely related would be too easy, so the New World vultures were long suspected to be closest to the storks.

    Nowadays, mostly thanks to molecular data, it is clear that owls and raptors are in fact each other’s closest relatives – raptors including the New World vultures (as the sister-group to all the rest), but excluding the falcons, which nobody had suspected at all. Falcons are instead close to parrots and songbirds, which makes some sense if you look at Eocene fossils.

  36. Trond Engen says:

    I think Glorishear could be a distortion of Gloucestershire.

  37. Trond Engen says:

    David M.: Falcons are instead close to parrots and songbirds […]

    Is this why falcons can be trained?

  38. David Marjanović says:

    Hawks and eagles can be trained just the same.

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