There is a study by the University of Cambridge which states that the middle letters of a word are all but irrelevant when it comes to people’s cognitive understanding of what that word is. Basically, when we read words we only see the first and last letters.
If you’re a violist, this is presents something of a problem. I wish that I had a fiver for every mention of “Angry Violinist” I have had since I’ve started this zine malarkey. I’ve even had to take out the email address firstname.lastname@example.org because precious correspondence from readers has been lost.
The fact is, ‘violist’ is not the most common of words. Not even amongst violists, many of whom prefer “viola player” because of the musicological argument that a violist could refer to a player of the viol (the viola’s medieval cousin). But they’re just being pedantic. And really, if anyone responded to me saying “I’m a violist” by saying “oh, you play the viol?”, I would probably die of shock.
Should I have called my zine “Angry Viola Player” for convenience?
The word violin and the word viola originate from the same Latin word,vitula which is from vitulare, meaning to sing or rejoice.
Vitula evolved via Old French into vielle which became the more familiar-sounding Medieval word vyell which then evolved further to become viol and violone.
Viol (and subsequently viola) served as a generic term for the entire string family – therefore proving my theory that not only is the viola centre to everything string related, but that there has always been confusion over what the heck a viola/viol is.
There is also a deliciously evil dark side to this. Vitula also evolved into the word fides which meant string or lute. The word fides eventually became fiddle, but it also spawned fidicula which describes both a small lute-like thing and a torture device. In fact, after hearing me play, certain people attest that there is no difference between the two.
Please say yes to A.V. – sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun.