Sunday, February 19, 2012

An Itsy-Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Linguistic Paradox

Brian Hyland's song "Itsy-Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" has been around for a long time; and although it was a hit by a minor pop star from the time bikinis were risqué, it has lasted well.  It was recently revived in a Yoplait commercial, the thesis being that yogurt is an excellent way to help in losing weight so you can look good in your bikini when it's the season.  This is something that smacks close to home for all bikini-wearers, to be sure, for their gustatory indulgences to help them deal with the winter.

However, the song raises some issues that might have been overlooked:

1.  What is "itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny," to use Brian Hyland's overkill term?

       
a.  Is it the bikini itself?

       b.  Or is it the polka dots on the bikini?

2.  What, exactly, is "yellow" in the song?

       a.  Is it the bikini swimsuit?

       b.  Or is it the polka dots on the swimsuit?

When the song came out in 1960 or so, it was considered shockingly brief; hency "itsy-bitsy" was a bit of overkill in use of words.  Since then, the bikini has hatched several variations, from the "granny or Baptist" bikini suitable for country singers to wear without offending their fan bases, to the string bikini which provided fewer square inches in coverage. In effect, which of these two examples more faithfully depicts the implied reality of Brian Hyland's song?

Yellow bikini top, with polka dots



White bikini with yellow polka dots
Deconstruction interpretation argues that we cannot decipher the lyrics of the song without understanding the process by which the connotations and context behind a work are explored and analyzed in (often excrutiatingly fine) detail.  When applied to writing, deconstruction takes it apart so as to better help us understand its relevance to real life (Derrida). This often means pursuing a concept's inner contradictions and the differences between how it appears in the work itself and how it compares to other related concepts both in writing of fiction or song lyrics and in everyday life.  In other words, we cannot simply conclude whether it is the bikini that is itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, or its dots are; and likewise we cannot conclude whether it is the swimsuit  that is yellow, or its dots.

Maybe the swimsuit itself is an itsy-bitsy light yellow string bikini; and it has teeny-weeny darker yellow polka dots on it.  This would, logically, satisfy all possible interpretations.


 

15 comments:

Mike said...

So he says to himself, "Have I been coming here long enough to show her this?" And then he goes, "Oh what the hell. She goes to Mardi Gras."

This is from a Stren fishing line bikini contest. The contestant has to use Stren fishing line to hold the bikini together. Obviouly the less material the easier it will be to hold up. (stripersonline is a fishing site)

http://www.stripersonline.com/t/588233/stren-fishing-line-bikini-competition-winner-08

Guys, you can find more pictures than this online.

Mike said...

And then I find the other fishing site I was really looking for - http://www.piscatorialpursuits.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=423662

Anonymous said...

Great finds, Mike!

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Angel, this is a question worthy of a zen master: Is the bikini yellow, or are the polka dots?

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Mike, those pics made my day!!!!

Grand Crapaud said...

I need to get back to fishing, just sayin'......

Grand Crapaud said...

An interesting post, evil POP tart!

Big Sky Heidi said...

I think that this question may be resolved by noting that the song title had no commas. Therefore, "itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny yellow polka dot" all modify "bikini." "Yellow" modifies "polka dot" by immediately preceding it. Therefore, the Yoplait commercial got it wrong.

Bilbo said...

I am probably the only person who reads your blog AND has a degree in Linguistics AND is interested in semantics ... and even I thought that was more linguistic analysis than I needed. Trust me, most men wouldn't even know if there were any polka dots or not on the bikini, much less what color they (or the bikini) were. And I don't think Mike's yellow fishing line suit would pass my Picket Fence test, not that it isn't interesting...

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Mike, I found her swimsuit amusing but maybe not for ordinary beachwear. She definitely has few inhibitions!

Grand Crapaud, thank you! And I'm sure you will find most occasions for fishing to be relaxing.

Heidi, your interpretation makes sense. It's the polka dots that are yellow. Anyway, ploka dots are not usually thought of as tiny.

Bilbo, I offer no warranty on the soundness of my analysis, but thank you! As for not noticing the color of the polka dots, it may simply be bacause about 8% of guys are color-blind (the genes for it are carried on the X chromosome).

Mike said...

Oh Oh Evil. Be careful quoting statistics. Bilbo and I will impose on you to take over where numeric life left off. It left a hole in our blogging soul.

http://numericlife.blogspot.com/

Bilbo said...

By the way, Angelique ... I AM color-blind ...

Svejk said...

Language aside, the body in the bikini looks finger-looking good!

Mike said...

Yep, your word verification is on. It doesn't show up until I hit the publish button.

Randomly Rachel said...

Bikinis are tyrannical! It's harder each year to look passable in one. Sniff..