Jody
what does "sing-songs"mean? is it a music box? Taken on a yachting trip around the lake at the emperor's Jehol palace, Lord Macartney stopped to visit forty or fifty pavilions, each . . . furnished in the richest manner, with pictures of the Em-peror's huntings and progresses; with stupendous vases of jasper and agate; with the finest porcelains and japan, and with every kind of European toys and sing-songs; with spheres, orreries, clocks and musical automatons of such exquisite workmanship, und in such profusion, that our presents must shrink from the comparison and "hide their diminished heads."
Aug 3, 2014 2:05 PM
Answers · 13
I found the text you've quoted in Google Books, and from the notes it appears the passage that includes the words sing-song are not actually the words of Lord McCartney. They actually come from John Milton's poem "Paradise Lost" which was published in 1667. Because it is poetic writing, it may not have the same meaning we think it does. In this context, I imagine that Milton was referring to the actors in the pavilions who use a sing-song tempo to recite their lines. I can't find a definition in any dictionary that equates sing-song with a music box.
August 3, 2014
Found it! http://tinyurl.com/njghbwk "John Henry Cox... [was] a dealer in English 'sing-songs.' This peculiar term was the coastal nomenclature for the trade in clocks, watches, and mechanical toys such as snuff-boxes containing jewelled birds which sang when the lid was opened. Such objects were one of the very few classes of goods which the West could offer, before the age of full industrial production, of interest to the East." --Heavenly Clockwork: The Great Astronomical Clocks of Medieval China By Joseph Needham, Ling Wang, Derek John de Solla Price By the way, there's a famous story by Hans Christian Andersen, "The Nightingale" (or "The Emperor's Nightingale"), about an Emperor of China who likes a mechanical, toy singing bird better than the real one.
August 3, 2014
A "sing song" is where everyone joins together to sing. Like an informal choir! Often used in reference to parties :-)
August 3, 2014
I don't know. It's interesting. It's puzzling. It's not a familiar modern English word. It is part of a long list of objects, "rich furnishing." It is paired with "European toys." I like your guess. I think it MUST be some kind of mechanical toy or novelty or gadget.
August 3, 2014
A 'sing-song' is something spoken in a 'signing a song manner'.
August 3, 2014
Still haven’t found your answers?
Write down your questions and let the native speakers help you!