Bohannon, bohannon, bohannon
March 20, 2008 12:30 PM   Subscribe

MusicFilter: In the long version of the Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love" (available on the 12") there is a female voice saying something in what I believe is Japanese. Can anyone translate that for me? Thanks.

Here's a link to a YouTube video of the song with the Japanese part at 3:00 and, naturally, a dancing cat. I've already looked for the answer on the Tom Tom Club Forum that hydrophonic suggested once upon a time.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I always thought they were referring to Bohannon. The lyrics are full of other probably more notable artists, but I just assumed this was part of that list - Kurtis Blow, Smokey Robinson, Sly and Robbie, Bootsy Collins, James Brown and...Bohannon!
posted by mike_bling at 1:17 PM on March 20, 2008

If you google "Genius of Love Lyrics" you'll get a bunch of different options, but they're more or less consistent about this bit. Bohannon it is.

(nice link, mike_bling, I just learned something!)
posted by nkknkk at 1:29 PM on March 20, 2008

Response by poster: To clarify: I don't mean the part where she sings "bohannon." I diligently googled and found the lyrics, although I still didn't understand that part until mike_bling's link. I just picked the title of the post on a fluke. Sorry if that's confusing.

In the long version (which is over five minutes long) there is a sample where a woman (not Tina Weymouth) says some words in Japanese during one of the breaks between choruses. I'm sorry that I don't have another way of linking to it, but if you go to three minutes into that YT video you will hear it. It's a a couple of sentences, maybe. That's the section I'm looking to have translated.

Thanks for your help.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 1:38 PM on March 20, 2008

The first question I ever asked on metafilter was about Tom Tom Club. One of the answers to that question links to the Tom Tom club forum. You should ask there.
posted by billtron at 2:01 PM on March 20, 2008

oh crap. sorry to duplicate a link from the OP.
posted by billtron at 2:01 PM on March 20, 2008

Response by poster: It's okay billtron. I appreciate the spirit. We're going to get through this, I promise.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 2:09 PM on March 20, 2008

It is not Japanese. No idea if this is accurate or not but this page says it is a made-up language.
posted by (alice) at 2:23 PM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ditto on Alice that it's not Japanese. I seem to recall reading somewhere that it's Icelandic. I never learned what it is supposed to mean, though. I liked Alice's link, but I don't put much stock in the person's interpretation (it's clearly not "radio talk show host Jim Bohannon," for instance).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:41 PM on March 20, 2008

That page hilariously says that Bohannon is about the talk show host as opposed to the funky funkster.
posted by unSane at 2:51 PM on March 20, 2008

Response by poster: (alice), do you speak Japanese, or are you going off of that page? I don't think it is a very trustworthy source as the Admiral and unSane have pointed out. According to WP, the talk show host uses the Bohannon sample to intro his show sometimes, so, while wrong, it's understandable. Still, I don't see how they could have gotten "oopsie mamacita" out of something that is clearly two less syllables, i.e "upsimama" as other sites have it.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 3:12 PM on March 20, 2008

I speak it.
posted by (alice) at 3:33 PM on March 20, 2008

Wait, you guys don't remember Bohannon? Big in our house back in the day. And I always figured the "upsimama" thing was sort of like the pig latin that we grow up hearing ... like in "Double Dutch Bus."
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 3:46 PM on March 20, 2008

I really don't see why this very important piece of information is not available on the Internet already. Genius of Love is an extraordinary song, and people should be writing theses on it. Ambassador DuVal, continuing on my recollection that the lyrics are spoken in Icelandic (although it could be another Northern European language), you might MeFi mail one of our Icelandic members (just search for Iceland on AskMe, and you can see who is posting in those threads), and maybe ask them to opine. Even if it is not Icelandic, they may be able to tell us if they recognize the language in any event and we can follow up with someone else.

We must get to the bottom of this.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:49 PM on March 20, 2008

This may simply be coincidence, but this page on Talking states that Tina W. was a navy brat and her family lived for a time in Iceland. I don't have a copy of the liner notes with me, but Wikipedia does not list a vocal credit for anyone other than Weymouth family members on the album.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 4:01 PM on March 20, 2008

Response by poster: I MeMailed three Mefites who probably speak Icelandic and have asked them to check it out and report back. Unfortunately, two of them live in Reykjavik where it's getting kinda late by now. I should have jumped on that sooner. I also googled around for "icelandic" and "genius of love" to no avail.

I registered for the Tom Tom Club Forum to ask over there, but there is a waiting period to be accepted by the mods. Billtron, did you make an account? Could you possibly ask this over there?

Thanks, (alice), that rules out Japanese.
I wonder if there's be more of a response if I had asked, "What language is this?"
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 4:38 PM on March 20, 2008

although it could be another Northern European language
It's not Norwegian, Danish or Swedish, but I've had too little exposure to Icelandic to say for certain.
posted by monocot at 4:52 PM on March 20, 2008

Thanks, Monocot. Hopefully there is an insomniac Icelander out there.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:44 PM on March 20, 2008

Sorry, I never pursued my question far enough to register an account there. Good luck!
posted by billtron at 6:19 PM on March 20, 2008

Heard back from native Japanese speaking friend: "I don't think it's Japanese, I don't understand."
posted by zengargoyle at 6:31 PM on March 20, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone. Maybe tomorrow will bring a new dawn of Tom Tom Club understanding. (Iceland, I'm looking at you.)
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 10:46 PM on March 20, 2008

To my asian ears, it sounds very much like Korean, at least in the inflection and tone.
posted by mphuie at 12:21 AM on March 21, 2008

Definitely not Korean.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:24 AM on March 21, 2008

Another possible resource is, which (on the "Informations" page) lists this an an email address to contact the band:
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:05 PM on March 21, 2008

Insomniac Icelander here.
Sorry, it's not Icelandic. It does sound a little like an Icelander spoofing an Asian language, but the words are all gibberish to me.
posted by aldurtregi at 7:29 PM on March 21, 2008

Response by poster: I've emailed the band as per your directions, Admiral.
A grateful, though saddened, takk to you, aldurtregi.

Wait, how many languages are there again? We've knocked out seven so far; it shouldn't take too long by process of elimination.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 9:11 PM on March 21, 2008

Response by poster: Mission accomplished, Admiral!
Everyone, as I commented above, I emailed the band threough the Tom Tom Club forum (
Today I recieved this response from Chris Frantz:
Thanks for your message. The guess of Icelandic is close because Tina and her sisters lived in Iceland for several years in the mid-sixties when their father was stationed there with NATO.

But, no cigar because, in fact, that is not a sample. That is Tina's sister Lani speaking in a "made up" language that she invented to amuse herself when she was younger. She recorded the voice in one or two takes and we loved it because it was so weird.

Hope this answer helps.

Warm regards,

Chris Frantz
So, there we have it. It's pure gibberish. I am going to sleep well tonight. (Although, perhaps we weren't too far off and Lani's made up language is comparatively similar to Hoplandish, the made-up language of Sigur Ros [an Icelandic band] )
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 10:37 PM on March 24, 2008 [5 favorites]

Holy crap! That's incredible. I had almost despaired of ever having any sort of resolution to this seemingly intractable mystery. And, honestly, the fact that it's gibberish is almost better--if it could be translated, the enigma would evaporate, and I think I the knowledge would not be as satisfying as it might have seemed ex ante.

Good on you for putting in the legwork. And congratulations on your new penpal!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:01 AM on March 25, 2008

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