Fiddlesticks: Usually used in the plural as an interjection for nonsense (as one would interject after hearing a politician’s election-year promise), or used in the singular to denote something of little or no value (as in “I didn’t care a fiddlestick for that”).

The fiddlestick originated as the name for the bow of a fiddle. Makes perfect sense. I’m puzzled, however, by the derogatory or contemptuous aspect in association with the fiddle. How did this come about? Not to say that fiddle isn’t used in more complimentary terms. “Fit as a fiddle,” designates something or someone in good shape. Fiddle is more often used to disparage as in “He’s just fiddling around,” or “Nero fiddles while Rome burns.” I don’t hear this with the violin. Try replacing violin with fiddle in any of the above phrases. Sounds downright silly. The violin is the concert instrument associated with serious, classical music. It also stands in for jazz. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard “he’s a jazz fiddler, ” rather “he plays jazz on the violin,” or even “he’s a jazz violinist.”  Fiddle seems to be regulated to the folksy, colloquial realm.

I guess that’s why the band sometimes get’s asked “Are those fiddles or violins that you’re playing?” My usual answer is “YES!” which leaves some to scratch their heads but I go on to explain that there’s really no difference, just a difference in terminology. This has gotten a response from other band patrons who will carefully explain that a fiddle is a violin that has a modified bridge so as to easily bow two strings (known as a double-stop) and to make rapid fingering changes. I’ll nod yes to this (after all, that’s a band patron) but my understanding from long association with musicians is that rapid fingering and double-stops have more to do with training and musicianship than with the instrument itself.

All this was initiated by comments about the use of violin on our blog and website instead of fiddle. It’s not that the band wants to be considered as classically trained (though some band members are), or that we are avoiding the folk music association. It’s actually more practical than that. It’s a big world out there filled with speakers of other languages who often rely on translation software or applications to render websites more understandable. Not that the blog is so popular that concern about translation is absolutely necessary. It’s simply a consideration. Violin is the term that is more easily translatable. Not that we don’t like fiddle. We’re serious about playing Irish traditional music and communication about the band to others. After all, we’re not just fiddling around.


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