July 12, 2007

As long as I’m talking about prelapsarian pop music, I’d like to ask if anybody knows how the sixth line in Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” is punctuated. (I know that technically it’s Umberto Tozzi and Giancarlo Bigazzi’s “Gloria” as translated by Trevor Veitch, but give me a break.)

Because I can’t figure out whether it’s this:

Are the voices in your head calling “Gloria”?

Or this:

Are the voices in your head calling, Gloria?

If the song were in Sanskrit we wouldn’t have this problem, since feminine nouns ending in “a” decline differently in the nominative and vocative cases.

And if wishes were horses, they would long ago have trampled the warlords who have usurped our government into oblivion.

The original Italian lyrics are useless, as they’re essentially about something completely different.

The lack of any pause in the music between “calling” and “Gloria” suggests that the former interpretation is correct. However, the millenia-long pause between “head” and “calling” suggests that correct prosody was not high on the translator’s list of priorities.

Any ideas?

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26 Responses to As long as I’m talking about prelapsarian pop music, I’d like

  1. David says:

    My guess is also the former.

  2. Eric says:

    I’m going with direct address: “calling, Gloria.” I base that on the general idea that it seems she’s singing TO someone named Gloria.
    But I might have had a special brownie or two every time I listen to that song.

  3. Of course, there’s a third possibility that I didn’t notice before. I think it’s highly unlikely, but, given the singer’s pronunciation, the line could be most appropriately rendered thus:

    Are the voices in your head? Call in, Gloria!

    I doubt it, though.

  4. lagolamour says:

    Perhaps it is a questioning of the location of the voices, as in:
    Are the voices in your head? Colon? Gloria?????

  5. Richard says:
  6. Richard, those lyrics do look promising, but as much of the rest of the lyric is left unpunctuated, and I can’t find a transcriber’s name or a provenance, I’m reluctant to consider the question definitively answered.

  7. Jeff says:

    I think it’s actually punctuated, “Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret.”

  8. EGL says:

    Wow. I thought I had too much time on my hands. Tell E.S. you need sex immediately because you are pondering the punctuation of a song’s lyrics and you really should be putting your talents to better use.

  9. henry says:

    wow. I never knew the song had such depth. Like a speed therapy session. Have you asked E.S. for assistance? Clearly, that Gloria has issues.

  10. ~Macarena~ says:

    It’s the former if “Gloria” is the alias under which she’s been living.

  11. Matt says:

    Hey Faustus, just thought I’d let you know… The first case would be an accusative form, not nominative… ;o) In case you were wondering…

  12. EGL, there’s actually a very particular reason that I need this information. But don’t worry. E.S. continues to put my talents to great use.

    henry: I think Gloria is actually one of E.S.’s patients already.

    Macarena: Hmm. Possibly, though not necessarily. But it’s unclear whether Gloria is the alias or not.

    Matt: As much as it pains me to find myself not in perfect agreement with you, I must insist that, as we’re speaking of a direct quote, the nominative is what’s called for. (Unless of course the voices are addressing her with her own name, in which case both instances are vocative and we’re back where we started.)

  13. TED says:

    I believe there’s another couplet which goes something like “Leave them hangin’ on the line/
    Oh-oh-oh, calling Gloria.” In that case, it would appear that “calling” means telephoning. A reasonable third (or fourth or fifth) interpretation is that the voices in the head (rather than, or in addition to the people who may or may not be telephoning) of the person being addressed (one assumes that this person is Gloria, but perhaps not) are similarly attempting to get through to Gloria. In that case, neither quotation marks nor a comma would be required or, indeed, correct.

  14. If TED’s interpretation is correct, then Matt is also correct that “Gloria” is in the accusative case. (Well, depending on how you interpret the verb “calling.” It’s possible that the dative is what’s required.)

  15. lee says:

    There are many people calling out by name to our dear little Gloria: the singer, the folks on the telephone and, of course, the voices in her head. Since no other interpretation has previously occurred to me, it follows as the night the day that Ted is right.

  16. Adam875 says:

    I have always believed it to be the former, based on the phrasing. However, the internet, which is never wrong, has the comma.

    Speaking of translated 80s pop, have you ever read (or made, since you do things like that) a literal translation of Nena’s “99 Luftballons?” Sooo much better than the English version.

  17. Andy says:

    They shouldn’t have translated these songs! Europeans had to listen to American pop in the original English — and that’s largely how they all learned conversational English. What do Americans know? Pooh. Poiche viviamo in un mondo materiale, ed io sono una ragazza materiale? I don’t think so.

  18. Andy says:

    Actually, wait, that should be siamo vivendo. I think. Dude, I’m so rusty. : (

  19. If the voices in her head are calling “Gloria” to Gloria, then I say both.

    (Damn. I should have picked “none of the above.”)

  20. After reading all of this back and forth, my eyes ache from rolling. Good Grief!

  21. goblinbox says:

    Bad phrasing is a scourge to lyricists everywhere.

  22. Jean says:

    I can’t answer your question.

    But you wrote this sentence:
    “If the song were in Sanskrit we wouldn’t have this problem, since feminine nouns ending in “a” decline differently in the nominative and vocative cases.”

    Will you marry me?

  23. aimee says:

    Hi Faustus, I know this isn’t really related but I’m still waiting for your new book to come out and I’m actualy coming over to America in October and I was hoping it would be out as I could get you to sign it as I really want to meet you, any idea of when t’ll be completed? Sorry for the alcohol induced message.

  24. Roberta says:

    When I hear Jesis, he appears to me as a voice in my head. Therefore, it only seems logical that the line says, “Are the voices in your head, calling? Gloria!” Gloria means “Glory to Jesis” in the original Hebrew, so this makes the most sense to me.


  25. campbell says:

    Is he in his on his annual villegiatura, or what?

    Talk to me, Faustus. I worry.

  26. emir says:

    But aren’t these both in the vocative case? i.e. either the voices, or the singer, are addressing Gloria.


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