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The real Incy Wincy

30 Mar 21 | Re: Correct nursery rhyme tune, finally available online | Link-U-Post

Everywhere you look online, people are getting the tune of Incy Wincy Spider wrong! Google image search "Incy Wincy Spider sheet music" if you don't believe me. Many sources also get the title wrong ("Itsy Bitsy Spider"?) though not all, but I've yet to find what I consider the exact correct tune. So I'm happy to publish it online, right here, for what may be the first time ever.

All sources are fine for the first two lines, which go like this:

Music notation for the first line of Incy Wincy Spider.

Music notation for the second line of Incy Wincy Spider.

Then it generally falls apart in the third line, where most sources have this:

WRONG music notation for the third line of Incy Wincy Spider, bafflingly repeating line 1.

You can't fool me, though: that's just the first line repeated. I've been to plenty of toddler groups and that isn't how it goes. Some sources do a bit better, offering this:

Music notation for the third line of Incy Wincy Spider (mainstream version).

I will grudgingly give that a pass, and it may in fact be the standard tune for the line. But it's not how I sing it. My version (and I can't be the only one) is this:

Music notation for the third line of Incy Wincy Spider (my version - the real one).

See? The first and last notes are flattened. If you don't do that, you lose all of the song's off-beam, slapstick character and get a very bland result. The Eb (sixth degree of the scale) brings the spider's predicament into focus and gives it a whole personality. It's a musical wry smile that creates tension to lead into the fourth line (which, this time, is the same as the first one).

For the music theorists, the song is written in the harmonic major scale: a major scale with a flattened 6th note. (There's an interesting primer here, although it only describes what notes are in the scale and doesn't have anything about slapstick or musical wry smiles.) In Incy Wincy the third line is the only place in the song where the sixth note appears, so it is pure harmonic major. That's quite unusual - I don't have any other examples of famous songs that use it, though apparently it's not uncommon in jazz. But it's a nice illustration of the fact that you don't always have to look very far, or listen to jazz, to find unusual musical elements, and ideas that seem complex can sound very simple if they're deployed judiciously.

Lastly, as a companion to my post on Twinkle Twinkle Star a few years ago, here's my guitar chord arrangement for Incy Wincy Spider:

G          D              C            G
Incy Wincy Spider climbed up the water spout
Bm            D        C                 G
Down came the rain and washed the spider out
Eb           D(II)   C(II)            Cm
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain
G          D              D7            G
Incy Wincy Spider climbed up the spout again

Chord voicings:

Chord voicing diagrams for Incy Wincy Spider

The chords are fairly standard nursery rhyme stuff to start with, which makes line 3 a bit musically surprising when I lean heavily into the two E flats. The first one is backed by a bVI chord resolving down chromatically to a V chord, which I think of as "the Blur chord" - think End Of A Century. The second one sneaks up as the IV chord drifts into a iv chord (where the flat 6th is the third degree), which happens in a lot of songs but I think of as "the Creep chord".

Credit to Einar Egilsson’s fab chord image generator and flat.io for the music notation.

Oh, and finally finally, here are three more verses that I've written to continue the story:

Incy Wincy Spider tries to spin a web
Along comes the wind and blows it all to greb
Then comes the rain and takes it with its flow
Incy Wincy Spider has another go

Incy Wincy Spider looking for a fly
Here comes a wasp and stings her in the eye
Wasp buzzes off and ends up getting stuck
Incy Wincy Spider can't believe her luck

Incy Wincy Spider eating wasp for tea
Here comes Jim Dyson on a hoovering spree
Incy Wincy Spider shakes a fist at him
That's the last we see of arachnophobic Jim

Posted by ANNABETH at 22:14

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Anna vs Anna

2 Feb 21 | Re: Fictional foreign name pronunciation | Link-U-Post

Note: This post only applies to the UK, not America. Americans will gain nothing from reading it, and are not allowed to do so. If you are American and you read past here, you have to send me 50p in the post. If you tell me to "Let it go" it's a pound extra.

Among people who have children, heated arguments are breaking out over the pronunciation of Anna from Frozen. I naturally want to pronounce it the usual English way, to rhyme with spanner, but sometimes I get corrected: Anna from Frozen has a long a, like the a in palm. Am I wrong? Are they?

The reason for the palm pronunciation is that Anna comes from a non-English speaking country somewhere in Europe but appears in an American film, and Americans have a convention that the short a sound in European words should be pronounced as a long a. Where in Europe doesn't matter. 'Pasta' is a good example: Americans generally say it with a long a, and the fact that Italians don't is irrelevant. I don't know where the rule comes from but it exists. Interestingly, when Americans spell this pronunciation out phonetically they tend to write the long a sound as an o. So when they pronounce Anna from Frozen, it's possible that they are thinking 'Onna'.

English people don't have this rule. We either pronounce foreign words as if they were English, or make a sometimes laborious effort to pronounce them the way they're said in the original language. Which one we do depends on the person, on how established the word is in English, and on how close the home pronunciation is to a theoretical English one. With pasta there is no dilemma since the Italian pronunciation happens to be pretty close to what it would be in English (though I've never heard anyone do the Italian t), but words like pizza and roulade have developed a standard English version that's fairly close to their home pronunciation. Chorizo is all over the place, still too new to have settled properly.

Names are a bit different. Following the example of BBC Sport commentators, we do generally make an effort to say foreign names the foreign way. David is a good example: Spanish Davids like David Villa get the short a. However, you have to make the distinction between following the pronunciation of the origin language, and trying to do the accent. Spanish Davids, to use the same example, don't usually get the Spanish v that sounds like a b, because that would be doing the accent. Doing the accent is a trap to be avoided at risk of sounding like the kind of person who says "Bahrthelonna" (and that pronunciation is offensive anyway because it's the Castillian one, erasing Catalan identity).

So the Anna question boils down to whether the long a is a distinct pronunciation element from the Arendelle version of the name, or a question of accent. I think it's the latter, for a couple of reasons. First there are plenty of words in English that can be said with either of these two a sounds (grass, glass, class, bath). Second, in the real world Anna is a pan-European name that is well recognised in Italy, Denmark, Poland, Russia, Portugal, Hungary and many more countries. I've never heard any other European Anna, whether Karenina, Kournikova, de' Medici, Chakvetadze or anyone else, given the Frozen pronunciation - we just say it the English way. It's a bit like Paul: most English people wouldn't pronounce the first name of Paul Cezanne, Klee or Pogba in an obviously French or German way.

Now we don't know exactly where Arendelle is meant to be, so we can't ever know the correct Arendelle pronunciation (ie whether the Americans are getting it wrong in their own film). A bit of research on forvo.com focusing on cold, northern countries shows that while Swedish and Danish seem to have a pretty clear short a, Finnish has a long one, so the question must remain unsolved. But for English people I think the paragraph above gives a pretty clear case for trusting my instinct and continuing to rhyme with spanner.

In conclusion, you can say it however you like but (1) don't correct me because I'm not wrong and (2) if you pronounce it like in the film you are being American.

Posted by ZACKRY at 22:16

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Plastic supply: elastic demand?

24 Jan 21 | Re: The obstacles to reducing plastic production | Link-U-Post

We've all seen the alarming environmental consequences of plastic waste, so we all should agree that we want to use less of it. But is that even possible? My understanding is that plastic is made from the fractions of crude oil that are less valuable as fuel. In other words, it's a by-product. On that understanding, so long as there's a demand for petrol, the other fractions of oil are going to have to be used for something, so less demand for plastic might result in a lower price but wouldn't do much to reduce supply.

This matters particularly because plastic recycling seems quite dubious. Even assuming that all the plastic you send for recycling actually gets recycled, and not shipped round the world for two years before being thrown into a pond in Malaysia, it will degrade during the process and can't be sent round the loop indefinitely, so recycling only delays the inevitable. A hundred tons of polyethylene that are manufactured are a hundred tons that will one day end up in landfill (or the ocean, or my back garden) whether it takes a week to get there or whether it gets recycled for ten years first. A similar point can be made about reusable plastic items: no matter how treasured your plastic plates are, you aren't going to keep them for all eternity so eventually they will become waste even if your heirs use them for generations before that happens. As soon as any plastic is manufactured it is destined to become rubbish eventually.

Therefore, there are only two ways to deal with the plastic problem properly:

  1. find some way to break it down when it inevitably gets thrown away - I've heard of solutions involving specialised bacteria, which would be wonderful news, or maybe some process could reswizzle it into a material that would biodegrade after use, or maybe it could be burnt and carbon-captured or something.
  2. manufacture less plastic in the first place.

The first solution seems vital to research but quite a long way off - let's cross our fingers. In the meantime, is the second solution economically plausible or not? I'm going to look at the five most commonly used polymers and see whether they actually are by-products, as I vaguely believe they are, and if so, what else might be done instead with whatever they are made from. According to Creative Mechanisms the five most common plastics are polyethylene terephthalate (PETE), polyethylene (PE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polypropylene (PP) and polystyrene (PS). Good, that more or tallies with what would probably spring to mind for most people. Let's take a look at them. (As well as Creative Mechanisms, a great site, I'm getting some of this from Wikipedia so the usual caveats apply - maybe this is all bunk planted by internet anarchists.)


PETE is known as polyester when used for clothes but also makes see-through plastic bottles and other things. It's made from ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. Ethylene glycol comes from ethylene (ethene), or else from carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide gets produced mainly by burning coal, but ethylene comes from crude oil - it's made by cracking larger hydrocarbons such as naphtha and gasoil. As for terephthalic acid, it is produced from p-Xylene, which comes from naphtha.

If demand for PETE were to drop, the petrochemical industry would presumably have a lot of naphtha on its hands. Other uses of naphtha are as lighter fuel, camping fuel, and to dilute crude oil to make it runnier so that it can be moved about. It doesn't seem like those applications have a lot of latent demand so I think that in the event of a naphtha glut, industry would either continue to produce plastic with it and sell it at lower prices, or else find some use for burning it all for fuel.

As for carbon monoxide, it apparently has various industrial uses so presumably the coal plants would turn to those, assuming they didn't just release it all into the environment. This question is of limited interest to the environmentally minded since everyone already agrees we want to burn less coal.


Plastic bags, detergent bottles, wheelie bins, artificial hips. This is an easy one. Polyethylene is made from ethylene, which as we've already seen is mainly made from naptha. Reduced PE use would therefore add to the naphtha glut resulting from our abandonment of PETE.


Used for pipes and your dad's trousers, PVC is made out of chloroethene (ethylene with a big fat chlorine atom plonked onto it). Unsurprisingly it is made out of ethylene, which to reiterate, comes from naphtha. The chlorine apparently comes from brine, so it isn't a by-product: we would just leave it in the sea.


Polypropylene is used for packaging and car parts and has cornered the market in living hinges, ie the bendy bit of a sauce bottle lid, which apparently is a very specialised application. It's made from propylene (propene), which also comes from that wonder substance naphtha.


Polystyrene is used to make squeaky packaging that goes everywhere as well as vessels, cases, pots, tubs and cups. It's made from a rather extravagent molecule called styrene, which is produced from ethylbenzene. Ethylbenzene is derived from unicorn sweat and also occurs naturally in petroleum, where almost all of it is used to make plastic. Small amounts of it are also used for an assortment of things including synthetic rubber, paints and pesticides. However those account for well under one percent of ethylbenzene use so if there was a glut of it then it might test the limits of human ingenuity to find what to do with it.


It seems that a big drop in plastic consumption would lead to a great deal of naphtha knocking around without much purpose, and smaller but still significant quantities of ethylbenzene. It doesn't seem like the other known uses of these sexy liquids would ever be able to account for the total amount produced, so I would foresee that barring a worldwide government ban, plastic would continue to be produced and offloaded to whoever would buy it.

Therefore, a better approach to the plastic problem might be to reduce demand for the intrinsically valuable products of crude oil, chiefly petrol. We should continue to research ways to deal with plastic at the end of its life cycle, and to dispose of the plastic that we use as responsibly as we can, but I would advise anyone campaigning to reduce plastic consumption to pivot towards campaigning for green energy and reduced energy use. Nobody is drilling up crude just to get naphtha, so if demand for fuel oil drops then the naphtha stays in the ground along with it and the plastic problem goes away. Finding uses for naphtha that aren't environmentally nasty would also be worth doing.

Posted by MR BOERHAAVE at 15:30

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Back... Further back...

...ten years of waiting, speculation, uncertainty ...Hell itself is pretty well-lit, by and large ...a specific antipathy towards mills ...It would all have been bearable without the golf ...an absence of strong melodies ...mournfully sung meandering half-tunes ...rump of loons ...an upsetting of the natural order

...Launch fearlessly into analogies ...twins in the bin ...INTENSO MODE ...mad stuntwoman ...move-busting, rotund scholastics ...fourth's the golden eagle ...a list of tired cliches that it will not resort to in any circumstances ...You bet your asthma inhaler ...offend the wizards of Liechtenstein ...absurdly jazztastic and showy ...Your name is Alan Carstairs ...You may feel a little... tingling ...valiant strugglers against the tide of charisma ...we seem to be in some kind of golden age.

Thank you so much to ticket touts everywhere ... Goonrock I find most beguiling ... pole-greasing careerists ... assent past the point of absurdity ... sly one slips from the shadows ... she mutated into something even bigger ... Top Media Geek ... laugh with delight, long and loud ... all the big beat fun stuff.


... only alluded to cryptically via a crossword clue ... he beetled off ... panegyric hosedown ... looking to plagiarise a harvest acrostic.


... hapless Buttons-type character ... fictional Radiohead-appreciator ... The last proper one must be Edward I ... a fortress built out of the blood of thousands of slaughtered bulls ... drummers shivering in vests ... Back to the drawing board, chart-watchers!

... he conveniently says the word fridge about fifty times ... a slight hoarseness or croakiness ... a sepia tide ... he could nearly have scooped Miguel de Cervantes.

Sandal sales boom. Razor sales plummet.

... messing up the next edition of the Guinness Book of Hit Singles ... a carboard signpost pointing the way down Plot Street ... eat old peanuts out of the sofa ... the Funky Giraffe baby product range ... All objections are cant ... jacket-wearing nonsense ... just enough mud sticking ... the arch-users of that particular fiddle ... slack-jawed cogitation ... a full-body frown that exerts every single muscle ... far too much of the intricate robot gubbins.

In Jessie J terms ... obvious Brontë fan Shaun Ryder ... anthem-type music as a Trojan horse ... cutesy hip-hop moves ... Now That’s What I Call Wigging Out.

... characteristically nasal delivery ... too much democracy ... all-killer-no-filler dancefloor bangers ... a grimly eccentric minority ... West End-style camped up non-rock ... a ripping winner’s single ... a lovely lullaby.

... brattish charisma fountain ... Cowardy Custard ... a kind of Platonic Jagger.

Galahad Roger Potter ... to her surprise Aslan appears ... a pink smartphone on a Saturday night ... a thousand eloquent turns of phrase ... someone will invent a great big battery ... the land of tooth obsession ... the virtue of knaves ... an ideal snack for a train journey ... a vaguely arty, continental bloke?

... referrative case ... shaped like Rigel ... poetic pressure ... awful, awful blog posts ... Democratic utopia!

... waxy-surfaced nick-nack ... tip-top, AV-elected representatives folky bits ... Garbage (if you count them) ... poor, poor Lib Dems ... that same train-window feel ... crud scraping ... world wig-out shortage ... brainless fawning over royalistic trivia ... twice as hard next time ... good material for sit-com sex.

No C-word this week, C-word fans!

A great new approach to dinner drinking ... scratchy breakdown bit ... beacon of oratorial skill ... Why, John Power? Why? ... little clumps of fact ... musical alchemists ... a little patch of bad skin on one hand ... feedback squealing vaguely ... the most rational human alive ... you may be exactly the same as me.

... Pshaaaaw! to all of that ... fascinating mechanical clock ... digestives in the shape of a loaf of bread ... endless popgun barrage of short-sentence trivia ... What do we all think about that, eh?

Michael Parkinson ... A train of thought that started with tea ... carrots ... the most generous funny man in double act history ... joining in the great haiku-writing tradition ... long, orange vegetable ... Jay-Z agrees ... unanimous nominee ... distinctive brand of slow service.

... hot buttered soul ... political blancmange ... the ideal is just a little shuffle of the shoulders.

York and Lancaster ... spoiling the line of my trousers ... doughty journeyman ... bop about in one of his fine jackets ... almost worth watching ... Joan of Arc’s canonisation ... recommending expensive food and clothes ... What a silly magazine Q is.

How barbarous ... extra-biblical tradition ... unwitting TV Burp fans ... spend whatever time remains bopping about and grinning ... one-sided Moebius rectangle ... don’t go looking in the Gospels.

But a radical sees a little further ... cute little pickaxe ... a meter not normally assigned to any word in the English language ... an ingenious way to reward superfans ... Not Echobelly ... the company directors probably kept most of the saving ... the smallest Mr Man ... a Lepidus fan who just wants to talk Lepidus.

... answer floats in the ether ... you can boil or steam some specially beforehand ... the Toronto Hobbits.

... distinctly pedestrian raps ... Look on my works and despair! ... Stevland “Stevie” Wonder ... flim-flam and dross ... cooing, benevolent soft-soaper ... metaphor, onomatopoeia, synecdoche, hypallage ... inexplicable pop-up rapper ... cherish loveliness ... named after a moon goddess or whatever ... a birthday on the 39th ... like a heart-shaped coffee spoon ... Victoria Hesketh ... three poorly-dressed blokes ... the Roman geezer ... Maddening cereal design ... a bit of low-level recognition ... the elusive sharp end of Lawro’s wit ... exactly what Marvel Comics need.

Jiminy Jillickers!

... special occasions are going to involve speeches ... “just a fan in a suit” ... commentary box hate figure ... magisterial preface ... the notoriously rigorous UEFA coaching badge ... whoever else she is ... match the style of the master ... another milestone in gender equality ... football-haters, block-heads and innumerates ... fount of bons mots ... exposure to Nick Grimshaw ... good old David James ... slightly surprised ... reasons for messing everything up ... he’s making it up as he goes along.

Prancing about like a nincompoop in the town centre ... music on a razor’s edge ... sausage-fingered musical regressionists ... still preoccupied with 1985 ... jolly, benign busybodies ... my zero followers ... Looks pretty though.

Hardly Hard-Fi territory, I think you’ll agree ... kazoo-and-saucepan bands ... mooching buddy ... Mrs Tolkien put her foot down ... only ever really existed on Planet Bushell ... actually quite a nice sign ... cavorting more than a sportsman strictly ought ... made the mistake of copying Shed Seven instead.

... going from door to door trying all the handles ... ignominious foundering collapse ... There is a lot of religion in it ... answer to that: play better ... He also says that he is dapper ... tour de force of restrained longing ... the word ‘ghastly’ might be involved at some point.

... an idealised dancefloor where the stars have aligned ... unfussy, mathematically minded nation ... the triumph of wide-eyed teenage promise ... fail ... my most up-to-date thoughts ... A-list wigsbies ... a picturesque fragility ... doesn’t always show the expected level of respect ... no sooner buy a CD single than a penny-farthing ... pure dance gold ... instead of onions I substituted eggs ... better without the sides ... I wonder if the Bahranians are watching.

... it just stretches out and fades away ... you don’t actually write all the questions out ... pictures of gurning old women ... a twinkling miscellany of other incidentalia ... especially the boiling cauldron bit ... stripily garish woollen socks ... Santa-suited disco dancers ... in aching anticipation ... the admirable Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero ... come on, audio people ... rather takes the edge off the feminist intent ... Britain has never won it ... despotic or bonkers or charismatic ... nostalgia, only for another place ... brain-exerciser ... shovelling junk mail into landfill sites ... got the idea from the prog band ASIA ... that woman out of Madison Avenue ... this panegyric isn’t post-gig euphoria.

I believe the G usually stands for God ... Wrestling fans should have had no problem ... the ‘have mercy’ element can get missed ... a sign made of a grimy blue tarpaulin ... an air of real gravitas ... a nice new dodgy flat in Bristol ... warm and welcoming ... Oirish no-hopers ... lucky country ... as stretched-out as Peter Crouch ... question rate ... the millions of Mills’s minions ... You have to admire the guy.

... What does it mean for God to rest? ... bling bling baby ... gunged up with big hits ... 0.1% of the prize money ... draw back the cloak of invisibility ... oily megalopolis ... zenarchistic pop pragmatists ... legalise at least some drugs ... urchin and Becker fans.

Blast, you've spotted me.

... you STILL get equal boys and girls ... Score one for the Chinese government I suppose ... moan about something that is bound to happen ... Lando is the right answer ... shake their fists at the monitor ... a strange land of mountains, horsemen and tour cyclists ... goats on tightropes ... in the style of Digitiser ... plenty of water in the southern hemisphere, sure ... create your own ... an accordion player called Corn Mo ... a point for drummer ... Sweden and everywhere else ... a bit like the wooden spoon ... O-trivia Newton John ... it would one day be misused by the chief executive of the Independent Schools Council ... out of the bank.

... may not actually have a surname at all ... crew of gangster midgets ... the heirs of the mighty conqueror ... woolly turtleneck ... directional trend-setting demigods ... seven in almost 1000 years ... run-of-the-mill internet raving ... must be time for a second ... pleasantly rounded, like a genial uncle ... only writing LOL if you actually laugh out loud ... replace hat, arrange hair, check hat, take towel ... a facsimile of knowledge ... impossibly dramatic and thrilling ... cool eh? ... you know, for fun ... doesn’t actually answer or even appear to understand even one of the questions ... First post done.

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