December 12, 2018
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The Old Farmer's Almanac For Kids
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QUESTION OF THE DAY:

Why are sharps and flats called sharps and flats, and why not in Italian, like a lot of other music words?

ANSWER:

The words come from the Queen's English, "to sharpen" and "to flatten", or to raise or lower a note by a half-step or semitone. In England, notes are still said to be "flattened" or "sharpened", not "flatted" or "sharped" as we say here. While it's true that many music words are in Italian (e.g., allegro, piano, fortissimo, etc.), the words sharp and flat refer to musical symbols, not words, and each language has its own translation: "kreus" (German), "diese" (French) and "diesis" (Italian) for "sharp", and "be" (German", "bemol" (French) and "bemolle" (Italian) for "flat".

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