Chantey? Shanty? Chantez!

Written by jsmontigne on . Posted in SeaSongs Project

There has been a nerdy little debate rumbling through the ranks of Clerestory’s singers and board: is the word for a traditional sea song ‘chantey,’ ‘shanty,’ or something else entirely.

Oxford dictionary prefers ‘shanty,’ but gives the origin as the French word ‘chantez’ (the imperative plural of the verb ‘to sing’). Merriam-Webster prefers ‘chantey,’ offering the British ‘shanty’ as the first alternative. They are both agreed on the definition of the word: a rhythmic song sung by sailors whilst performing their work.

Jesse discovered this excellent blog post on the word debate, but also the history and practice of singing sea songs.

Clerestory will offer several chanteys in our SeaSongs program, and we invite you to weigh in, not only to our syntactical debate, but in suggesting some of your favorite maritime songs. Let’s sing—chantez!

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