Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Episode 115: Change Your Tune Show Notes

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Bunny Trails: A Word History Podcast

Episode 115: Change Your Tune 

Record Date: June 18, 2021

Air Date: June 30, 2021



Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. 

I’m Dan Pugh


And I’m Shauna Harrison

Every week, we take an idiom, or other turn of phrase, and try to tell the story from its entry into the English language, to how it’s used today.

There have been times when I’ve gone into something with a strong expectation of how I will feel about it. And then after some conversation or perhaps an impactful experience, I find I’ve entirely switched directions… in other words, I’ve changed my tune. 


Cambridge Dictionary give us this definition

change your tune to change your opinion completely, especially because you know it will bring you an advantage:

They also include this example: 

He was against the idea to start with, but he soon changed his tune when he realized how much money he'd get.

Merriam-Webster provides a similar definition, though it seems less negative….

change one's tune

: to change the way one talks about something : to have a different opinion about something 


He bragged that the test was easy, but when he saw his grade he changed his tune.

This is a phrase that dates back quite a ways. The word change has been in use in English since around 1200. It is a word that was borrowed from French at the time. 

According to Oxford English Dictionary, it began being used as a part of specific phrases at least as early as the late 1300’s, as in those relating to behaviour, attitude, or allegiance. 

One such phrase is: to change (one's) hue which is defined with reference of a person: to undergo an alteration in the colour of one's complexion in response to something which has happened, been said, etc.; spec. to turn pale or red

Now rare.

One example of this is from 

c1380   Sir Ferumbras 

Al chaungede hure hew & mod. [All changed here hue and mood.]

Many similar phrases found their way into the lexicon before more common forms were settled on. 

In 1547, in the Journals of the House of Commons - Volume 1 By Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons, I found the following excerpt: 

“His Majesty answered, he was loth he should be forced to alter his Tune; and that he should now change it into Matter of Grief by way of Conterlation. He did sample it to the Murmer and Contradiction of the People of Israel. 


In this same century, we find the first attestation of the full phrase according to the Oxford English Dictionary. 

b. to change one's tune (also †note): To alter one's opinion; to alter one's manner or tone, esp. to act respectfully having previously been insolent or derogatory. Also occasionally to change a person's note: to cause (a person) to behave more respectfully. 

1560 John Knox · Answer Great Nomber Blasphemous Cauillations

Of which places it is plaine, that ye vnderstand, that in Adam we were created to gods image... But here you change your tune, and say: He hath made man like to his owne image in Christe Iesu.

?1570 William Wager · Inough is as Good as Feast

I wil make you chaunge your note Before that for your labour you get the value of a grote.

1625   Samuel Purchas · Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas his pilgrimes. Contayning a history of the world, in sea voyages & lande-travells, by Englishmen & others...Some left written by M. Hakluyt at his death. More since added. In fower parts

When all men expected present and seuere castigation, the King changed his tune, highly commending his constancie and honestie.

1694   P. A. Motteux tr. F. Rabelais Pantagruel's Voy.: 4th Bk. Wks. iv. ix. 42   I'll make him change his Note presently.

1734  The Roman History, from the Foundation of Rome to the Battle of Actium Book by Charles Rollin and Jean-Baptiste Louis Crévier

Finding that the more he declined the command the more they pressed him to accept it, he changed his note.

a1761  Tracts on the liberty, spiritual and temporal, of protestants in England. Addressed to J. N. Esq; at Aix-la-Chapelle. By Anthony Ellys

The nobles, finding themselves and the whole kingdom in great distress and danger, began to change their tune, and court those whom they had despised and oppressed before.

From the Martinsburgh gazette out Virginia from October 21, 1824, we are met with an entertaining story title “The Dispute”. There are several excerpts, but it’s just too fun not to share! Two friends have gone a bit of time since they last met and one says to the other, 

Jim’s friend is surprised by this response, recalling that last they’d seen one another, Jim was in excellent spirits. He inquires if he has had some great loss, if Jim’s “girl” has died. Jim replies, 

Jim finally divulges the source of his dread...

Jim reveals that Emily treats him very poorly and the friend asks, 

“Why do you endure this treatment?” adding that he would introduce Jim to some new girls. But Jim interrupts to say that he cannot go meet any new girls, as he is … married. 

The friend startles, “Married?! To whom?!”  

Cheyenne transporter. [volume], July 30, 1885, Image 1

About Cheyenne transporter. [volume] (Darlington, Indian Terr.) 1879-1886.

Tombstone epitaph., May 27, 1894, Image 3

About Tombstone epitaph. (Tombstone, Ariz.) 1887-current

Before we get to more modern examples, we want to give a shout out to the folks who make this show possible!

A Quick Thank You


This episode is sponsored by our amazing Patrons. 

Bunny Trails is and will always be free. But we are only able to make this content because of the awesome support of our Patrons like Pat Rowe and Mary Halsig-Lopez. 

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Modern Uses

The album Jubilee by Grant Lee Buffalo was released in 1998. The song, Change Your Tune from this album includes the lyrics:

I've been such a Pollyanna

I just rolled back like a rug

Oh but you can't understand that no

'Cause you're in the hole you dug

Right now you could use a change of tune

Right now no one needs it more that you

I know everyone is wicked

Won't you change your tune

Change your tune

Change your tune


The book  Changing the Tune by Carolyn Glenn Brewer was published in 2017. From the Goodreads synopsis: 

Even though the potential passage of the Equal Rights Amendment had cracked glass ceilings across the country, in 1978 jazz remained a boys’ club. Two Kansas City women, Carol Comer and Dianne Gregg, challenged that inequitable standard. With the support of jazz luminaries Marian McPartland and Leonard Feather, inaugural performances by Betty Carter, Mary Lou Williams, an unprecedented All-Star band of women, Toshiko Akiyoshi’s band, plus dozens of Kansas City musicians and volunteers, a casual conversation between two friends evolved into the annual Kansas City Women’s Jazz Festival (WJF).  But with success came controversy. Anxious to satisfy fans of all jazz styles, WJF alienated some purists. The inclusion of male sidemen brought on protests. The egos of established, seasoned players unexpectedly clashed with those of newcomers. Undaunted, Comer, Gregg, and WJF’s ensemble of supporters continued the cause for eight years. They fought for equality not with speeches but with swing, without protest signs but with bebop. For the first book about this groundbreaking festival, Carolyn Glenn Brewer interviewed dozens of people and dove deeply into the archives. This book is an important testament to the ability of two friends to emphatically prove jazz genderless, thereby changing the course of jazz history.

And lastly shares this message on their homepage: 

Mental illness affects 1 in 5 Americans. We are fighting to put an end to the stigma around mental healthcare.

Wrap up...

Overall, this is a phrase that can go either way… some people use it rather harshly and others use it in a positive manner. Regardless of the spirit behind it, I don’t see this phrase falling out of use any time soon. Music is as popular as ever and change is simply a part of existing… so it seems like a phrase that will remain pertinent. I certainly had fun researching this one and I love the positive message from That will stick with me. It is an imperative… change your own tune. Be nice to yourself! 



That’s about all the time we have for today. Thank you for hanging out with us today. If you have a modern example of this phrase that we should have included, we’d love to hear about it! Reach out to us on any of our social media accounts: Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram all @bunnytrailspod, or comment on our website


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Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. And until then remember... 


Words belong to their users.



e. intransitive. Of a boy's voice: to become deeper in tone and register at puberty; to break (cf. break v. 6).

In early use occasionally applied to an analogous change believed to occur in girls' voices (perhaps after Aristotle: see quot. 1595).

Bartholomaeus Anglicus · On the properties of things (transl. John Trevisa) (ed. Michael Charles Seymour) De Proprietatibus Rerum (BL Add. 27944) (1975) I. vi. v. 301  

Whan children voice chaungiþ it is a tokene of puberte.

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