September 3, 2010
When my wife and I put our son down for a nap, we sing him “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” so that he has an extra sleep cue to help him get to sleep.
At first I didn’t know the words, but they are now etched into my brain:
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky!
I have learned a lot about this simple song, and have been meaning to write it down. So here goes:
1) “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” is sung to the same tune as the Alphabet Song (“a, b, c, d, e, f, g…”). When I first realized this, it absolutely blew my mind. Sing both songs out loud right now and see. It’s the same song!!!
2) The same tune is used to sing the words of “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep”!!!! Well there are some small differences, but it’s the same song more or less.
3) The name of the song is “”Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman.” It was a French nursery rhyme. Mozart wrote twelve variations on the song called, Twelve Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman”. Pretty creative title huh. Anyway when I get bored singing the standard song, I use one of Mozart’s variations.
4) The words of the song are pretty ignorant. “Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are?” As Wikipedia will tell you, “a star is a massive, luminous ball of plasma held together by gravity.” “Like a diamond in the sky”? A star is like a diamond? This is your explanation for what a star is?? Come on… it’s almost as if this song is based on the scientific knowledge of the world back in 1806. Oh right.
Anyway the words of the song kinda bothered me for a while, because they felt somewhat ignorant to me and I like to pretend that I am a scientist. But then I read the original lyrics to the song, “Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman.”
Ah! I shall tell you, mum,
That which causes my torment.
Papa wants me to reason
Like an adult.
I say that sweets
Are better than reason.
I read that and it was like Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star was talking to me across the centuries! It was saying, “Don’t worry about making sense of this song. Don’t reason like an adult. It’s just a nursery rhyme.”
Btw, this is the sort of dumb crap you think about when you become a parent.