Thursday, February 15, 2007

When is a raven like a writing desk?

Recently, while watching a little german movie - Schultze Gets The Blues (recommended, btw) - Deb & I both noticed the subtitles translated one character referring to an accordion as a ship's piano.

I'd heard the term before, but not in refererence to an accordion. I thought a ship's piano was simply a piano designed in creative ways to take up less space. They could have less octaves, 66 key keyboards, folding legs, folding keyboards, etc. Googling, I found out the first folding keyboard piano was made in 1820 (aye matey, thems t'were fine times to be out ticklin' the ivorys, upon the high rollin' seas).

But I couldn't locate anything on the high rolling internets suggesting you could use accordion and ship's piano interchangably. However, the very first result from a Google Images search for ship's piano comes up with the screen capture for this very movie moment (see above pic). Is the ABOL google bombing? Verrrry interrres-tink, Schultze. Schultze? Schultze: I know nothing!

[Self-editor: your use of very is getting very tedious]

Then I notice the second picture in the search is of a sailor playing a concertina. And the accompanying note on the webpage states that he's playing a ship's piano. At least a squeeze box seems more historically accurate than an's definitely more nautical. Afterall, even Popeye played a concertina.

So I guess the movie dialog etymology is: accordion -> concertina -> squeeze box -> ship's piano. Not that big a mystery afterall. I must need more coffee.


In the scene, the waitress, Lisa, is flirting with Schultze. When his friend says Schultze plays the accordion, she replies, "Ship's Piano?" Maybe as in "Squeeze Box?" As in, mama's got a squeeze box, daddy never sleeps at night?

I may be sacriligeous or simpleminded, disrespectful or disingenuous, but while reading Thomas Pynchon, I sometimes cannot help but think of Lewis Carrol. Yes, I've restarted Against The Day. I haven't consulted the wiki, or blog, yet. This is me, being old school.


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