Like the books I read, Wednesday Words are somewhat randomly chosen, today’s especially so.
Over the weekend, I ran across a video of the 60s Australian folk group The Seekers singing “I Know I’ll Never Find Another You.” The concert was part of their 2013 farewell tour. I have no clue how this clip entered my phone, from which it entered my consciousness, but for some reason it did. I remember the song fondly enough, but this performance struck me as not terrible, but lackluster, as sometimes happens when elderly stars sing their old hits.
If you compare the 21st century version to their original 1964 recording you’ll see what I mean. The group’s lead singer, Judith Durham, died just five months ago, and online tributes to her included clips of old performances, and you can perceive the difference. I can’t blame The Seekers for losing a little pizzazz over fifty years.
It’s just that since hearing the 2013 rendition, I’ve had the song stuck in my head. My playing it over again as I’m writing now is going to firmly implant it in my consciousness. Reflecting on why this particular ear worm is so annoying, the word insipid came to mind.
For a few minutes, the old folk song departed my brain, replaced by a question: Where does that word come from? I could tell it’s Latinate but couldn’t break it down.
Here’s the history. The Latin verb saepere, means “to taste.” Its related adjective, sapidus, means “having a taste or flavor.” You can see where this is going. The adjective metamorphosed into insipidus, that is, “without flavor,” and traveled through French—insipide–into English. Our insipid can refer to literally tasteless food but more often describes things “lacking vigor or interest,” such as, at least to me, a 2013 concert version of “I Know I’ll Never Find Another You,” playing in an endless loop in my head.
Share your ear worm antidotes in the comments.
Michael–Judith Durham looked the part.
When Sandy was in the UK in the seventies, they used to say she looked like Judith Durham. Carnaby St set the fashion, so when she came back after three years it was all jelly babies, striped tights and denim mini skirts. Her friends wouldn’t walk down the street with her. We are always behind the times here in Western Australia (WA). They call us Wait Awhile.
Michael–Oh, so interesting. I thought at first you were going to be offended. And to clarify, I didn’t say the group was insipid. I said that late rendition of the song was. Sorry to hear Judith was such a thorn in the Seekers’ flesh. It was nice of them all to sing with her on that anniversary performance, insipid though it may have been.
Oh, it was self correcting. I tried to line up the words.
I haven’t looked at your website in ages and here I find a post about the Seekers and why
they are insipid. Well, where to begin? I read your post and said to my wife Sandy, ‘What
was it you said about Judith Durham again?’ Her eyes went dark, she looked down and
said crossly, ‘She’s so full of herself’.
Here in Australia they made a big deal about Judith Durham. As Sandy said, they seemed
to pay more attention to her than to Olivia Newton John. We watched a documentary
where they brought back the other members of the the group. They were all very careful
to praise her and say she really was the group and it was up to her when to leave, but
the facts came out during the documentary.
All the while they were together they were on their first contract. No one makes money
on their first contract. They were offered a new contract by EMI and were about to make
mega bucks. At that moment she decided it was never about the money, married a pianist
and sang jazz in bars. It left the others broke and ruined Keith Potger’s life. No wonder
they sounded insipid. It’s a wonder they could be in the same room with her.
Roger: Trying to imagine having seen only (or nearly only) one pop concert. Be that as it may. . . Yes, bodies, brains, and souls do move on. Strange how “we,” whoever that is, sometimes are unable to recognize it.
The first, and just about the only pop concert Jacquie and I ever attended was to hear the Seekers in the late ’60’s. Neil Diamond, believe it or not, was their opening act. Your blog this morning has set me off on a contemplation of teh temptation to try to perform our as we once did when time, our bodies, brains, and souls have moved on.
Thank you! The taste of that is pretty satisfying.