Wednesday, November 17, 2004

There's Something About Marry

This is the kind of post you’re more likely to find on my brother Neal’s blog, where he sometimes discusses his favorite ambiguous song lyrics. In a recent Dear Abby column, a letter-writer mentions her ex-husband who “remarried two years ago to a woman I'll call Beth.” This threw me briefly, since the word ‘remarry,’ when used transitively (“he remarried Beth”) instead of intransitively (“he remarried in June”), seems to imply a reunion of two people previously married to each other. Well, that’s how it sounds to me, anyway. Here, the usage of ‘remarry’ appears intransitive, but ‘remarry to’ seems equivalent to the transitive usage; to my ear, the object of the preposition should be one’s ex. But the context, in which the writer herself was the ex, made the intended meaning clear.

Thinking about the transitivity of ‘remarry’ got me thinking about the two different transitive senses of the word ‘marry.’ It can refer to officiating a marriage ceremony (“Reverend Bob married Dave and Alice”), or to taking another as one’s spouse (“Dave married Alice”). The ambiguity comes out in the following passage from the old song “Aba Daba Honeymoon.” This song, despite having been written in 1914, covered the racy topic of a monkey and a chimpanzee who fell in love. According to the song,
Then the big baboon one night in June,
He married them and very soon
They went upon their aba daba honeymoon!
Hearing that at age 8 or so, I always wondered: Did the monkey, chimpanzee, and baboon all get married? Now, that might seem a bizarre thing for an 8-year-old to wonder… but riddle me this: if we’re already talking about interspecies mating, why should polyamory be out of the ballpark?


Anonymous said...

Haha, cute song, reminds me of those old mickey mouse or woody wood pecker type songs. Doesn't sound that strange for an 8 year old to think. Seems like something that I would have thought hearing those ambiguous words as a child. There were several misunderstanding like this in my childhood largely due to some idiomatic expressions I wasn't familiar with which i can't point out b/c i can't remember.
But I hope for your sake that you weren't thinking interpecies mating and polygamy at 8. That is beyond precocious. =P

Anonymous said...

The dual usage reminds me of a lunch conversation I had at work several years ago. My brother was getting married the following Saturday, and my mother, who was ordained as an Episcopal priest when she was about 60 years old, was performing the ceremony. I commented over the lunch table that I would be traveling that weekend to a wedding, that "My Mother was marrying my brother." Most everybody "got it", but one man -- a very traditional religious sort of guy -- took me aside later to reassure himself that what I meant was that my Mother was performing the ceremony for my brother's wedding to someone else. I reassured him.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your lightheaded er I mean lighthearted post. You brightened my day!! I like the fact that you will fearlessly broach taboo subjects like gay marriage, prison rape, poligamy, incest, pornography, sexual dysfunction, sadomasochistic trickle-down economics etc. You never cease to amaze me! You are not your run-of-the-mill staid college professor secretly into spanking. No, you're totally open about it. Now, just what gripe did you have with Michael Jackson? The sex life of a priest? Nun. And, what do you think about nuns having sex in public? Yeah, I know, it's okay but they shouldn't make a habit of it!

--Sister Mary of Agoraphilia

Anonymous said...

Wasn't "yaba daba do" what Fred Flintstone would shout in excitement? If so, was that a copyright infringement or enough of a differnce? I've heard that song played on '40s radio and I never could make out most of the lyrics. So, now I'm better informed about the wonderful lyrics & the ambiguity inherent in monkey love. Very funny and fresh no matter how old a song it is!

Anonymous said...

Well, about poly(whatever)y... :)

Those of you who have actually found the one personn you can't possibly live without--how impossible does it seem that you should have found them, and they you, all in the same lifetime, even, let alone the same college classroom (for instance)?

Those of you who haven't yet found the "one," let's think about your weary lives of despair, OK, that's enough, let's think about something else now....

So. Having found the one person you can't live without, what do you think the ODDS are that you'll find someone ELSE you BOTH can't live without?

Oh, if by some one-in-a-billion miracle this should happen to you, I'm not against it. The more love, the happier. But the deck is definitely stacked against it.

Just some thoughts...