July 17, 2008

#01-136: Happy Birthday to Me!

candles on top of a cake spell "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" in capital letters
Happy birthday!

Note: Please indulge the old Prof as he talks about his birthday (when he was a young pup of 53) and the people who share it.

Get Ready: How do you sing "Happy Birthday to You"? Do any of the versions below sound familiar?

Today is my 53rd birthday. [Remember, this was back in 2008.]

I've noticed that in different countries, people sing the "Happy Birthday" song slightly differently. Here's the original way to sing "Happy Birthday to You" (its original title):

Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear [NAME],
Happy birthday to you!

In other countries I've lived in, people often omit the name and sing:

Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday, Happy birthday,
Happy birthday to you!

But even in America, where the song was written, there are variations. One way that kids like to sing it is this:

Happy birthday to you!
You belong in a zoo!
You look like a monkey,
And you act like one too!

And if you're a good sport, and someone sings it to you that way, you might answer:

Happy birthday to me!
I belong in a tree!
I look like a monkey,
And I act like one three!

(The "three" is a little joke, because in the previous version "too" sounds like "two.")

There are even more variations. Some people, after singing the original, add a second verse. The "birthday boy" or "birthday girl" sings the third line:

How old are you?
How old are you?
Happy birthday to you!

Believe it or not, this song is still under copyright, and shouldn't be performed publicly unless royalties are paid! [Since this was written, it has entered the public domain as the result of a civil suit.]


All my life I've had what I call "Birthday buddies," people who share my birthday. The first was an older friend of my family's; the next few were school pals. Then, when I began teaching, I met numerous "BBs" amongst my students.

My all-time favorite birthday buddy, though, is my niece. My brother's second child was born on my 23rd birthday. Since her name is Brittany Baquet, and she's my birthday buddy, I always call her "BB."

Even here in Shenzhen I have BBs. Unfortunately, I am out of town today, so I can't see Jesse (who works for this paper) or Selina on the actual day. But when I get back, we'll definitely have a party!

Until then, Jesse and Selina, "Happy birthday to you..."


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Birthday_to_You

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. civil suit
  2. copyright
  3. public domain
  4. royalties
  5. version

  1. a certain form of something
  2. a court case in which one party sues another for damages
  3. available for anyone to use without payment
  4. the fees paid for using someone else's work
  5. legal protection against someone using your work without your permission

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for July 17, 2008

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