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re: i've always assumed it was "so new?" and it always made sense that way
Last Edit: Chazwaza 03:04 pm EDT 08/04/20
Posted by: Chazwaza 02:50 pm EDT 08/04/20
In reply to: re: i've always assumed it was "so new?" and it always made sense that way - whereismikeyfl 11:12 am EDT 08/04/20

It is both silly and fun. ;)

So here we have another false premise -- "people who insist that their misunderstanding is actually a correct understanding" ... these people don't exist here and nothing has been said like that. I have never said the misunderstood lyric is a correct understanding... I said it ALSO makes sense. Because it does. That doesn't mean I think the writer meant me to hear and think that, but if you do not know the expression *actually* used in the lyric, the lyric still by some magic makes sense (and has to me for decades, as it seems to have for the millions of people who've heard this song and wouldn't have ever known or heard "so nu" before, let alone seen it written to have the chance to find out they were mistaken about what word it was).

Also no one has quite said "the writer is at fault for writing something that could be misunderstood." There's no fault to be had. The writer wrote what he wrote. He DID write something that could, more than almost any other lyric in the show, be misunderstood. If he didn't know that people might be unfamiliar with this expression (i.e. most people who aren't Jewish and/or New Yorkers with Jewish friends), then that's a bit hard to believe but it's also possible he never considered it. Either way he wrote the lyric he wanted. There's no fault, this isn't a blame issue. The reason the lyric exists is because he wrote it. The reason that it is commonly misunderstood is because A) most audiences aren't familiar with Yiddish expressions and B) "nu" is a homonym of the incredibly common word "new", a word that also happens to make sense in the context if the listener doesn't know better, and is in a show with no signals there will be Yiddish expressions used by Nathan (who isn't defined as being Jewish in the show) or anyone (again, this isn't Fiddler). You can agree that "so new?" makes sense to you or not, but I'm curious if you pretend you didn't know the word "nu", what would you think when you hear this lyric?

And no, your friend didn't make a mistake and neither did I and the MANY people who hear it as "So new?" I don't know why you speak about this stuff in such judgmental language - fault, mistake.

But I also do not know what is so difficult here, why you can't acknowledge that *MOST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD DO NOT AND NEVER WILL KNOW THE YIDDISH EXPRESSION "SO NU?"
That is just not really debatable. It isn't the audience's fault or mistake, and it wasn't wrong of the lyricist to write it.
Guys & Dolls is one of the most known and performed musicals in America of the last 70 years. So most people who hear it, a lot of people, either are confused by this lyric or immediately assume they heard the word they think they heard ("new") and make sense of it exactly how I did as a comedic Jewish and/or New Yorker way to say something that makes sense in context.

Sondheim has even talked about this. It actually *is* the job of the lyricist to both choose lyrics that sound like they'd come out of the character's mouth AND that the audience will be able to hear and make sense of. That doesn't mean you can't use words or terms they wouldn't know, but if it doesn't make sense in context then that's a problem as a dramatist if you're trying to reach a wide audience. If it does make sense then it's fine. It's a choice either way.

And I'm sorry but I disagree-- unrelated to this song which is wonderful -- if you use a homonym in your lyric and it isn't clear in context which word you mean and the confusion of the words could change the meaning of the lyric, that is a weakness in the writing unless you did it on purpose. For example "I mean he kneads me, i mean like dough". Not only do we know which word Sondheim means between knead and need based on the context and the next line, i love that you could hear either and have it make sense. (because if you thought it was "he needs me", you know in 2 seconds from her singing "like dough" that it was actually "kneads", OR you stick with "needs" and are wrong but at least a baker needs dough, and as their partner Dot might like to think the baker needs her like he needs dough, as an essential part of who he is or to function. One is sexual, one is romantic, but both make sense, though only one is correct and it's not at all hard to know which word he meant.)

But as sometimes happens when discussing musicals... i think we are not going to see eye to eye here.
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