Here’s an instruction I haven’t gotten before: “I need you to channel your inner Fiddler on the Roof.”
Tonight was our first time practicing with all three of the members of Trio Sefardi – Susan Gaeta, Howard Bass, and Tina Chancey. They’re a local group that plays Sephardic music.
When Tina instructed us to find our inner Tevye, we were singing “Quando El Rey Nimrod,” one of the Sephardic songs in this year’s Christmas Revels. In the song, Nimrod, a king in the Bible, goes out to the fields, looks at the sky, and foretells the birth of Abraham.
Nimrod seems like a funny name for a king. But of course the king came first; it was only recently that his name came to mean “stupid person.”
I thought maybe dictionaries could tell me how that happened. The first one I tried only gave two definitions: the great-grandson of Noah, noted as a great hunter; a person expert in or devoted to hunting. The next dictionary was the same. The third, a dictionary of word origins, skips the issue entirely, going straight from “nimbose” to “nincompoop.”
A brief internet search tells me this question comes up a lot. One possibility is that it was because Bugs Bunny used “Nimrod” sarcastically to describe Elmer Fudd. Because he’s not a great hunter – get it? (The Online Etymology Dictionary refers to this hypothesis as “amateur.”)
Anyway, the song we were working on is about King Nimrod. It’s lovely, with flowing, melodic choruses and a bouncy refrain. Tina, Howard, and Susan sat facing the chorus, playing instruments and, in Susan’s case, singing. Tina leapt out of her chair to demonstrate how the song’s refrain should move and dance. And we all got even more excited about the music we’re singing for this year’s Christmas Revels.
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