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-   -   In Excelsis Deo: How to pronounce it and what does it mean? (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=230507)

HeyHomie 12-20-2003 11:09 AM

In Excelsis Deo: How to pronounce it and what does it mean?
 
Quote:

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing oer the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains.

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
First, how do you pronounce it? I've heard
  • In Eggs-shell-sis
  • In Eggs-sell-sis
  • In Eggs-sell-shis

Second, what does it mean? It looks like Latin, maybe something along the lines of "in highest praise to God." But I don't speak Latin.

TIA

alterego 12-20-2003 11:27 AM

According to this websit it means "Glory to god on high"


dunno how to translate it sorry.

alterego 12-20-2003 11:28 AM

erm *pronounce :)

gluteus maximus 12-20-2003 12:28 PM

In Excel cease day-oh!

Polycarp 12-20-2003 12:43 PM

It's Latin, and means "Glory, in the highest, to God."

You get into the question of "classic Latin" vs. "church Latin" pronunciations in the question of how to say it. The first word is "in" with the same meaning and pronunciation as English in; the last word, the dative for Deus, or God, is pronounced, in Harry Belafonte fashion, as "Day-o." It's the middle word that causes problems -- and the Latin can be rendered two ways. It's an ablative plural (it would be "excelse" if it were ablative singular, but like "pants" it's a plural-only form in this usage). "Excel - sis" is a standard Englishing of the classic Latin, which actually should have a marginally longer I sound, halfway between the -ee- sound of classic Continental long I and the -ih- sound of English short I. If you say "machinations" with a hint on the unstressed I sound in the second syllable that it's derived from "machine," you're close to correct. Church Latin, on the other hand, is Latin pronounced with a standard Italian (more or less Tuscan) accent, and would render this as (ex - chel - cease) with the -cel- syllable rendered as in cello. Because it is a Latin phrase in a hymn, the Church Latin is preferable but not mandatory; I've known a lot of Protestant renderings of the carol that use the Anglicized Classic Latin pronunciation.

altor 12-20-2003 03:21 PM

In several guides to church Latin pronunciation, I have seen the recommendation that the combo xc be pronounced ksh as in bookshelf.

Thus it would be: gloria in ek-shelsis day-o

But I've never actually heard this pronunciation, only eks-chelsis as Polycarp indicates.

Zsofia 12-20-2003 03:56 PM

It might be worth a mention that it only makes sense as the phrase "gloria in excelsis deo" - I imagine you're just not reading "gloria" as a foreign word, but "in excelsis deo" by itself just means "to god in the highest", it dosen't say what.

Enola Straight 12-20-2003 04:03 PM

Gloria IN-ex-CHELL-seez DAY-oh

Guinastasia 12-20-2003 04:15 PM

Quote:

Originally posted by Enola Straight
Gloria IN-ex-CHELL-seez DAY-oh
That's how we always said it.

Gyrate 12-20-2003 04:22 PM

Trust me, I've heard pretty much every possible pronunciation. Much of the difference comes from which Latin tradition you're dealing with.

Firstly, a small quibble: regardless of your style of Latin, "in" is pronounced "een". Anything else is just sloppiness.

As far as "excelsis" goes, I've heard

egg-SHELL-cease
eggs-CHELL-cease
ek-SHELL-cease
ex-CHELL-cease
ek-SELL-cease
and
ex-KELL-cease

Personally I prefer "ek-SHELL-cease", but as long as you're consistent it usually doesn't matter too much (and if you're singing it with a group, it's always good to all be using the same pronunciation.

Quartz 12-20-2003 05:04 PM

[quote]Gyrate wrote
Firstly, a small quibble: regardless of your style of Latin, "in" is pronounced "een". Anything else is just sloppiness.[/i]

Really? The line doesn't conform to the pentameter or hexameter form.

feppytweed 12-20-2003 06:00 PM

I always thought the lyrics were "in aunt chelsea's day-o."

JRDelirious 12-20-2003 06:21 PM

Can't really help around here, as I tend to just pronounce it in Spanish (echsel-sees)...just glad for the chance to breathe after that bloody long GlooOOOooOOOooOOOoria...

Zardoz 12-20-2003 06:40 PM

I always sang this as "in ex SEL sis DAY o".

'course, I never took Latin.

Polycarp 12-20-2003 07:13 PM

Quote:

Originally posted by MSUbulldogs101
I always thought the lyrics were "in aunt chelsea's day-o."
I take it Aunt Chelsea was in her youth a lady-in-waiting to Lady Mondegreen? ;)

hibernicus 12-20-2003 10:50 PM

Quote:

Originally posted by Gyrate
Firstly, a small quibble: regardless of your style of Latin, "in" is pronounced "een". Anything else is just sloppiness.

I can't agree with this. Latin had short and long versions of each vowel a, e, i, o, u: the short "i" in "incola" pronounced like the "i" in "pin"; the long "i" in "insula" pronounced like the "i" in "police". The "i" in "in" should be a short "i" as far as I am concerned.

Ruby 12-20-2003 11:01 PM

Quote:

Originally posted by Zardoz
I always sang this as "in ex SEL sis DAY o".

'course, I never took Latin.

Me too, and I did take Latin.

AskNott 12-20-2003 11:03 PM

Many choir directors bend the Latin a bit, for the sake of euphony (good sound.) Twenty voices singing an "x" sound in unison comes out rather harsh, so they're coached to sing "eggshell" instead of the proper Latin.

So, forgive them, scholars. They only want to sound good.

Johanna 12-20-2003 11:22 PM

What is called "Church Latin" pronunciation is simply modern Italian pronunciation applied to Latin. Keeping this in mind, analyzing the phonetics in the word will explain why it's pronounced the way it is.

In Italian, the digraph sc- is pronounced "sh" when it comes before e and i. So sce is pronounced she, and sci is pronounced shi.

The letter x represents a double sound, k followed by s. So the letter combination exce- can be broken into ek- and sce-. Ek-shel-sis.

The voicing of the k sound to g, resulting in the "eggshell" pronunciation, is I think favored by choral directors to give a softer, more euphonious sound. It may be that x when intervocalic (between vowels) is voiced, to sound "gz" instead of "ks". But I doubt that would normally apply in excelsis, since the x is followed by the unvoiced c. I guess it's just a choral director thing.

Polycarp, now you've got me singing the "Banana Boat" song.

Come, Mr. tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me want to go home

sailor 12-21-2003 06:20 AM

I believe Day-oh, although it may be common among English speakers, is just wrong and the e would be pronounced short eh, deh-o. I cannot imagine the e was pronounced English fahion, because that pronounciation of e is strictly English and AFAIK the rRomans did not speak English. Only English clergy will pronounce it like that not any other country and certainly not the acient Romans.

Bryan Ekers 12-21-2003 06:59 AM

Don't forget to whack yourself in the head with a plank after saying it.

Polycarp 12-21-2003 09:31 AM

Quote:

Originally posted by sailor
I believe Day-oh, although it may be common among English speakers, is just wrong and the e would be pronounced short eh, deh-o. I cannot imagine the e was pronounced English fahion, because that pronounciation of e is strictly English and AFAIK the rRomans did not speak English. Only English clergy will pronounce it like that not any other country and certainly not the acient Romans.
English long E, giving you "dee-oh" was not in question. But Deus did, IIRC, take a Latin long E, giving a "day" sound to the first syllable. "Deh-us," with a glottal stop intervening, doesn't sound like it would fit Latin speaking style, and "deh-oh" for the dative and ablative is even worse.

moriah 12-21-2003 10:13 AM

According to John F. Collins' A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin:

When spoken, it's supposed to be pronounced thusly...

Gloria -- GLOW rih ah. {The i is short, however, it sounds like long ee when gliding dipthonically into the ah. The o is long and shouldn't be turned into an 'r-controlled' vowel.}

in -- ihn {definitely a short i}

excelsis - ehk SHELL sees. {The 'cel' should be pronounced 'chell' but the 's' in the 'x' (ks) turns it into 'shell' as Jomo Mojo said. All the e's are short, but the i is long (ablative plural).}

Deo -- DEH owe {Short e, long o. However, the diphthonic glide between the vowels makes the eh sound like ay.}

Now, Mr. Collins notes that when ecclesiastical Latin is sung, there is the habit of turning short vowels into long, especially if stressed or held. That's why the sung version is most often sung as:

GLOW ree ah een ehk SHELL sees DAY owe.

While there may be choir directors who insist on the k sound in x be pronounced like a g, I've never experienced that. My experience is that people sing a g sound out of the difficulty of spitting out a hard k before a sh. It's just lazy vocalization.

Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.

Trigonal Planar 12-21-2003 01:06 PM

egg SHELL sis??? WOW, that's awful.

I've always heard it (or at least, this is how I've learned it) as:

Ex-cell-seas day-oh

or

Ex-cell-sis day-oh

boofy_bloke 12-21-2003 08:04 PM

The truth is... no-one knows how to pronounce Latin. No human language can survive 3000 (+/-) years of mispronunciation, dialects, speech impediments, pedants, social stratification, immigration, education, contact with new cultures, empire building, invasion and all the other stuff that happened to the Romans.

What you can do is make an educated guess, and this is what happened with Latin. Unfortunately, not all the educated guessers happen to agree and most people end up bending it to match their own first language dialect (comfort zone).

My advise is to pick the version you like best and stick to it.

dropzone 12-22-2003 08:45 AM

But what did the shepherds think when angels FINALLY spoke to them, but did so in the language of their conquerors?

"One true God, my ass! This Jupiter guy's even got the angels on his side."

;)

Jurph 12-22-2003 10:09 AM

When we sang the John Rutter "Gloria", my choir director coached "GLOW-r'ya Een Egg-shell-seas Deh-oh, et een Tare-ah Pox Ho-mean-ee-boos BONE-ay VO-loon-tot-teas" for aesthetic reasons. One of the tenors tried to correct him on his Latin and was told "you can pronounce it however you like in class, but you'll sing it as I tell you, or it will sound like crap."

The "g" sound in "excelsis" is identical to a vocalized "k" sound, which means the note can be carried through the consonant. Forgoing the sharper "DAY-oh" for "Deh-O" keeps overzealous high soprani from 'pinching' the vowel sound into "Dayeee-Oh" and turning a pleasant note into a screech.

We were so aggressively drilled on these pronunciations that I still sing them reflexively in that form.

Really Not All That Bright 12-23-2003 03:31 AM

My choirmaster (who also happened to be my Latin teacher) made us sing it "ecks-chell-sis".

In fact I got detention once for singing "Gonorrhea is expensive, hell no"....

rwsmith29456 12-13-2010 11:35 PM

I'm confused
 
I've sung under many fine directors over the last 35 years or so and studied singing for 20 years. Every few years I have to revise how I sing 'In Excelsis Deo' because everybody says the 'right' way is something different. Day-O has always been the same, but this year it was EEN eggshellsees Deo. First time in 35 years anyone has said to say 'EEN'. I took classical Latin in HS and college but am aware that this has NOTHING to do with liturgical Latin. I would consider some old time, hard core, Catholics to be in the know on this but I've never heard an authoritative pronunciation that stayed the same for any length of time. I think I'll write the Pope.

ragerdude 12-14-2010 12:57 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jurph (Post 4384135)
When we sang the John Rutter "Gloria", my choir director coached "GLOW-r'ya Een Egg-shell-seas Deh-oh, et een Tare-ah Pox Ho-mean-ee-boos BONE-ay VO-loon-tot-teas"

After years of IPA, that just looks really funny!

Blake 12-14-2010 01:44 AM

Zombie glee club. How odd.

septimus 12-14-2010 03:33 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by HeyHomie (Post 4377894)
... how do you pronounce it?

I don't know but "Gloria" is pronounced:

Glooooo--o-o-o-o-ooo-o-o-o-o-ooo-o-o-o-o-ooo-ri-a

Perhaps my very favourite Christmas song, especially if the mountains reply in bass to the angel's soprano.

BigT 12-14-2010 05:33 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by rwsmith29456 (Post 13247990)
I've sung under many fine directors over the last 35 years or so and studied singing for 20 years. Every few years I have to revise how I sing 'In Excelsis Deo' because everybody says the 'right' way is something different. Day-O has always been the same, but this year it was EEN eggshellsees Deo. First time in 35 years anyone has said to say 'EEN'. I took classical Latin in HS and college but am aware that this has NOTHING to do with liturgical Latin. I would consider some old time, hard core, Catholics to be in the know on this but I've never heard an authoritative pronunciation that stayed the same for any length of time. I think I'll write the Pope.

It is my experience that every director has their own take on how liturgical Latin should be pronounced. I had one director who insisted on trying to figure out exactly how it was pronounced when it was written. I asked him why we didn't pronounce songs written in English with their original accent, and he didn't get back to me.

As for EEN vs IN, I'd actually assume that's something different. There seems to be an insistence by certain sources (including the Wikipedia article ) to use the same IPA symbol for both long and short vowels, even though they all agree that they sounded different. When the word in is transcribed as /in/, people get the idea that it is pronounced EEN [in], when it is actually pronounced IN [ɪn].*

I, for one, am a big proponent of making the phonemic notation (indicated with slashes) and the phonetic notation (indicated with brackets) match. It's much less confusing.

*cited from Vox Latina (p. 47): "There appears to have been no great difference in the quality between long and short a, but in the case of the close* and mid* vowels (i and u, e and o) the long appear to have been appreciably closer than the short."

BigT 12-14-2010 05:40 AM

Didn't get back in time to point out that you can read the cited text yourself at Google Books.

Polycarp 12-14-2010 07:37 AM

So banana boats sail across the Eggshell Seas, pursued by zombies? Now ther's a nightmare image for Christmas!

DrFidelius 12-14-2010 07:58 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Polycarp (Post 13248581)
So banana boats sail across the Eggshell Seas, pursued by zombies? Now ther's a nightmare image for Christmas!

I saw three ships come sailing in, with zombies close behind..

Cheshire Human 12-14-2010 08:19 AM

The "BONE-ay" from post #30 should be pronounced "BRAINNNNNNNNS!"

Polycarp 12-14-2010 08:42 AM

Biblical Zombies are from Good Friday
 
The Scriptural account of zombies coming out of the graves is associated with Good Friday and Easter, not with Christmas:

Quote:

Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

51And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

52And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,

53And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. (Matthew 27:50-53)

aruvqan 12-14-2010 09:16 AM

please tell me i am not the only person now having the Banana Boat Song as an ear worm?

Dr. Drake 12-14-2010 09:40 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by boofy_bloke (Post 4382494)
The truth is... no-one knows how to pronounce Latin.

That's just not true. The difficulty lies in getting 21st-century English speakers to (1) agree on which Latin (time and place) to pronounce and (2) to agree to go through the effort of rendering it "correctly" when both Excel Sis and Eggshell Sis work pretty well for performance purposes.

Vaevictis 12-14-2010 12:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Dr. Drake (Post 13248837)
That's just not true. The difficulty lies in getting 21st-century English speakers to (1) agree on which Latin (time and place) to pronounce and (2) to agree to go through the effort of rendering it "correctly" when both Excel Sis and Eggshell Sis work pretty well for performance purposes.

We know a lot about how to pronounce Classical Latin, but we don't have a full understanding -- there are a number of tricky points on which we are just not sure. But we have a good general picture.

Dr. Drake 12-14-2010 01:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Vaevictis (Post 13249709)
We know a lot about how to pronounce Classical Latin, but we don't have a full understanding -- there are a number of tricky points on which we are just not sure. But we have a good general picture.

Agreed, but it is an awfully long way from boofy_bloke's "no-one knows how to pronounce Latin" (0% knowledge) to your "there are a number of tricky points on which we are just not sure" (what, 95%? 92%?).

rowrrbazzle 12-14-2010 09:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by aruvqan (Post 13248761)
please tell me i am not the only person now having the Banana Boat Song as an ear worm?

Here's the antidote (Stan Freberg's version) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PBO7YE7vjE

aruvqan 12-14-2010 11:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by rowrrbazzle (Post 13251714)
Here's the antidote (Stan Freberg's version) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PBO7YE7vjE

Now if I could only find Flight of the Bumblebee on sousaphone *sigh*

clairobscur 12-15-2010 04:15 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Zsofia (Post 4378674)
"in excelsis deo" by itself just means "to god in the highest", it dosen't say what.

I always seen it translated as "glory to god in the highest skies"

UDS 12-15-2010 05:17 AM

I'm guessing you've seen it translated into a French expression, which you are now transliterating into English as "glory to God in the highest skies"

SFAIK, the -cel element of excelsis is cognate with the French ciel, which translates into English as "sky" or "heaven", according to context. I think in this context ". . . in the highest heaven" might be a better translation than "in the highest skies".

BigT 12-15-2010 05:17 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by clairobscur (Post 13252459)
I always seen it translated as "glory to god in the highest skies"

Well, it's usually preceded by Gloria. And, yes, the word skies or heavens is implied by using excelsis alone.

Vaevictis 12-17-2010 10:08 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Dr. Drake (Post 13249970)
Agreed, but it is an awfully long way from boofy_bloke's "no-one knows how to pronounce Latin" (0% knowledge) to your "there are a number of tricky points on which we are just not sure" (what, 95%? 92%?).

You get my point exactly.

TubaDiva 12-17-2010 11:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by aruvqan (Post 13251937)
Now if I could only find Flight of the Bumblebee on sousaphone *sigh*

Sure.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyQeYctaea4

Okay, it's a rather colorful tuba, will that suffice?

picunurse 12-17-2010 11:57 AM

My high school choir teacher ranted that we were singing, not having breakfast so there are NO egg shells in Angels we have Heard on High She pronounced it excel sis deo.


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