For “Fiddle-de-de”

“What’s the French for fiddle-de-dee?” “Fiddle-de-dee’s not English,” Alice replied gravely. “Whoever said it was,” said the Red queen ...

What’s the French for “fiddle-de-dee”?   
But “fiddle-de-dee’s not English” (we
Learn from Alice, and must agree).
The “Fiddle” we know, but what’s from “Dee”?   
Le chat assis in an English tree?

—Well, what’s the French for “fiddle-de-dench”?   
(That is to say, for “monkey wrench”)   
—Once in the works, it produced a stench

What’s the Greek for “fiddle-de-dex”?   
(That is to say, for “Brekekekex”)
—The frog-prince turned out to be great at sex.

What’s the Erse for “fiddle-de-derse”?   
(That is to say, for “violent curse”?)   
—Bad cess to you for your English verse!

What’s the Malay for “fiddle-de-day”?   
(That is to say, for “That is to say ...”)   
—...[There are no true synonyms, anyway ...]

What’s the Pali for “fiddle-de-dally”?   
(That is to say, for “Silicon Valley”)   
—Maya deceives you: the Nasdaq won’t rally.

What’s the Norwegian for “fiddle-de-degian”?   
(That is to say, for “His name is Legion”)   
—This aquavit’s known in every region.

What’s the Punjabi for “fiddle-de-dabi”?   
(That is to say, for “crucifer lobby”)   
—They asked for dall but were sent kohl-rabi.

What’s the Dutch for “fiddle-de-Dutch”?   
(That is to say, for “overmuch”)   
—Pea-soup and burghers and tulips and such.

What’s the Farsi for “fiddle-de-darsi?”   
(That is to say for “devote yourself”—“darsi”   
In Italian—the Irish would spell it “D’Arcy”)

Well, what’s the Italian for “fiddle-de-dallion”?   
(That is to say, for “spotted stallion”)   
—It makes him more randy to munch on a scallion.

Having made so free with “fiddle-de-dee,”   
What’s to become now of “fiddle-de-dum”?   
—I think I know. But the word’s still mum.

John Hollander, “For ‘Fiddle-de-dee’” from Hotel Amerika. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Source: Poetry 180 (2003)
More Poems by John Hollander