CORRECTION! GEICO Ethics Dunce RETRACTED! It’s All Frank Sinatra’s Fault!

Emily Litella1There is apparently a diabolical law regarding Ethics Alarms that the more trivial a subject is, the more likely I will screw it up, or it will be a hoax, or something else. The previous post, chiding GEICO for allowing the lyrics of “You Make Me Feel So Young” to be massacred by Peter Pan in its current TV ad is an epic example.

First, I posted a video of Sinatra singing the song as an example of the right way. It is hard to find a video of anyone BUT Sinatra singing it, for he made it one of his standards. Then LoSonnambulo, a frequent commenter here, properly chides me for using a crooner who regularly changed lyrics as the paragon of lyrical certitude. Yes, that’s pretty stupid. Thus I resolve to change the embedded video, and what do I find? I find that the non-English, slangy abomination, “You make me feel so young, You make me feel so spring has sprung” did not originate with GEICO, or Peter Pan, but Frank Sinatra, who sang the polluted lyric in the earliest recording I could find. It appears to be his invention.

It gets worse. Because Frank sung it like that, everybody started doing it: Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, Jack Jones, everybody.  It’s the wrong lyric, damn it!

But I can hardly blame GEICO for not fixing the version in its ad when most who are familiar with the Sinatra version think those are the lyrics.

Never Mind.

UPDATE (4:00 AM): ARRGH! I just woke up with the song in my head, and realized what Frank was doing, or thought he was doing, with this lyric change. Since I know the correct lyric, I assumed that substituting “so” for “as though” or “like” meant that “so” was supposed to mean “as though” or “like” and so doesn’t mean “as though” or “like,” which is why I also assumed this was some kind of Jersey slang. But no! Frank altered the lyrics more than I realized. What his version is, is a parallel construction comparison:

You make me feel so young,

You make me feel so “Spring has sprung!”

In Frank’s version, “Spring has sprung” is presented as a synonym for “young,” as it replaces “young.” In the original, “You make me feel as though Spring has sprung” is a related but separate thought, as it should be, because feeling young and feeling like it’s Spring are not the same thing. If they were, then so would make lyrical sense. For example, if I write the a song that goes,

You make me feel so old,

You make me feel so Spanish gold…

That works, because Spanish gold is old. But Spring springing isn’t young. It’s a bad lyric change. It makes the song worse.

Nonetheless, I suppose that a singer who didn’t know the real lyrics, and maybe even a listener, would hear the song as making sense, sort of.

There.

Maybe I can get back to sleep now.

18 thoughts on “CORRECTION! GEICO Ethics Dunce RETRACTED! It’s All Frank Sinatra’s Fault!

  1. I have seen Sintra in concert many times with the last being at The Centrum in Worcester, MA as they celebrated the 5-year anniversary of the building and Sinatra has constantly changed around lyrics. Did it when he was young and did it when he was near the end. In fact, that is not unusual as I have seen Torme, Tony Bennet, and Josh Groban do it and even Peggy Lee change around “fever.”

    • Except that “like,” which is how the lyric came to be sung, both is English and slid along with nicely the end “l” on “feel.” Who uses “so” to mean “as if,” “as” or “like”? I assume it’s slang, but it’s obscure slang now.

  2. I just posted this UPDATE to the post above…

    UPDATE (4:00 AM): ARRGH! I just woke up with the song in my head, and realized what Frank was doing, or thought he was doing, with this lyric change. Since I know the correct lyric, I assumed that substituting “so” for “as though” or “like” meant that “so” was supposed to mean “as though” or “like” and so doesn’t mean “as though” or “like,” which is why I also assumed this was some kind of Jersey slang. But no! Frank altered the lyrics more than I realized. What his version is, is a parallel construction comparison:

    You make me feel so young,

    You make me feel so “Spring has sprung!”

    In Frank’s version, “Spring has sprung” is presented as a synonym for “young,” as it replaces “young.” In the original, “You make me feel as though Spring has sprung” is a related but separate thought, as it should be, because feeling young and feeling like it’s Spring are not the same thing. If they were, then so would make lyrical sense. For example, if I write the a song that goes,

    You make me feel so old,

    You make me feel so Spanish gold…

    That works, because Spanish gold is old. But Spring springing isn’t young. It’s a bad lyric change. It makes the song worse.

    Nonetheless, I suppose that a singer who didn’t know the real lyrics, and maybe even a listener, would hear the song as making sense, sort of.

  3. Say it isn’t SO? Let’s not gloss over this Rosemary thing. Even Clooney changed the words? She was well known for her diction and faithfulness to original lyrics. Another idol has fallen. How will I ever trust again?

  4. I dunno Jack. First, your parallel construction idea is valid, but even if it wasn’t I’m fine with the lyrics with the simple addition of a comma and the idea that it’s a metaphorical Spring that has sprung within him…..new life, new hope. The second “You make me feel.” could be viewed as a complete thought and not necessarily as a Simile.

    You make me feel so young,
    You make me feel, so [now] Spring has sprung [inside of me]!

  5. Spring has always been a metaphor for youth and vivaciousness. Think Easter celebrated with spring time imagery with chicks and rabbit pups or new flowers sprouting from last years seeds. It is a symbolic time of youth and renewal.

    Frank is metaphorically expressing two ideas; that she makes him feel both young (“feel so young”) and renewed (“feel so ‘spring has sprung’ “). It is a poetic license, accommodating the mechanics of singing using a forced parallel construction.

    Using “as though” in series with “so” as in the original version was arguably a poor choice. The original lyricist could have chosen a different image to convey, or could have chosen a different rhythm for the song to allow the “as” to be distinctly said.

    If you look at the sheet music (http://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0037085), there is no separate beat for the “as” in “as though” (which Frank replaced with “so”). The original lyricist doomed the “as” to be slurred or bullied into the song. Its addition breaks the parallel rhythm with the second verse.

    Frank’s modification arguably fixed this minor mechanical defect in the song, at perhaps the minor expense of the original imagery. His addition, however, adds an additional metaphor of feeling both young and renewed due to the long lady’s affection.

    • The minor defect had long been fixed by the more faithful and more logical “like,” which is what every singer sings who isn’t polluted by Frank’s unauthorized rewrite,,eliminating the extra beat. Lyrically speaking, it is lousy craft to use the word “so” in two different senses within two lines.

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