The Gnu

Album: Hat Trick (1964)

Songfacts®:

  • Songs about driving are not uncommon, nor are songs about animals, but a song about an animal inspired by a parked car, and one that changed the English language into the bargain must be unique. In his memoirs Swann's Way, Donald Swann explained how the duo came to write "The Gnu."
    During the Second World War, Michael Flanders contracted polio while serving in the Royal Navy, and was left severely disabled. Kensington Borough Council obligingly dug out a section of the pavement and curb outside his flat so that he could maneuver his wheelchair freely back and forth from his car, but somebody less considerate would regularly steal his parking space, which obviously caused him great inconvenience and annoyance. The offending vehicle's license plate began with the letters GNU, and later on a visit to the zoo, Flanders noticed a gnu staring at him intensely. The word Gnu was pronounced New, with a silent G, but in the song, which the beast narrates, it becomes a G-nu. Swann said "I believe Michael changed the language because so many people think it is 'G-nu'." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England

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