Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

"Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" is a swing-style song, with lyrics by Jimmy Kennedy and music by Nat Simon. The tune is reminiscent of "Puttin' on the Ritz," written by Irving Berlin in 1929[1], but the song is said to be a response to "C-O-N-S-T-A-N-T-I-N-O-P-L-E," recorded in 1928 by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra.[2]

The lyrics refer to the change of the name of the city of Constantinople to the Turkish name Istanbul (officially adopted in 1930). It also mentions the fact that New York City was originally named New Amsterdam, and that the change to New York was kept because "people just liked it better that way". In addition, the lyrics opine that the name change from Constantinople to Istanbul is "nobody's business but the Turks'."


The Four Lads original version

"Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" was originally recorded by the Canadian group The Four Lads on August 12, 1953. This recording was released by Columbia Records as catalog number 40082. It first reached the Billboard magazine charts on October 24, 1953, and it peaked at #10. It was the group's first gold record.[3][4]

Cover versions

Live performance cover versions

The Duke's Men of Yale, an all-male a cappella group at Yale University, perform the song at the end of most of their concerts. The song has been in the repertoire of the Duke's Men since 1953.

During the 2000s, the song was performed live by Australian Klezmer/Gypsy Jazz band Monsieur Camembert.

Recorded cover versions

Recording artists and groups known to have covered this song include:

They Might Be Giants cover

"Istanbul (Not Constantinople)"
Single by They Might Be Giants
from the album Flood
B-side "James K. Polk"
Released May 14, 1990
Format CD single, 7", 12"
Genre Alternative rock
Length 2:34
Label Elektra (US)
Elektra / WEA (EU)
Producer Clive Langer & Alan Winstanley
They Might Be Giants singles chronology
"Birdhouse in Your Soul"
"Istanbul (Not Constantinople)"
"The Statue Got Me High"

One of the better-known versions of "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" is the cover by the alternative rock band They Might Be Giants, who released it on their album Flood in 1990. It was released as the second single from that album in the same year. TMBG's version is at a faster tempo than the original and contains a distinct klezmer influence, including a violin introduction and some accordion and electric guitar parts not present in the original version.

Popular culture references

The lyrics were used in the March 21, 1954 episode of The Jack Benny Program during a sketch about a man trying to buy a train ticket to Constantinople. Jack Benny and Frank Nelson proceed to use the lyrics to dispute where the man can go.

The They Might Be Giants Version is used in the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Tiny Toons Music Television".

A few lines of the song were sung by some Muppet rats at the beginning of the first season episode of Muppets Tonight guest-starring Pierce Brosnan. When host Clifford tells the audience that the show can be seen everywhere from Istanbul to Constantinople, Rizzo the rat corrects him that Istanbul is Constantinople.

In Civilization III, when a player runs out of city names in the official list, the city name list restarts with "New" prefixed to the original name (e.g. "New London" for the English). However, when the Ottomans build the first city after exhausting the original list, the city is named "Not Constantinople" as opposed to the expected "New Istanbul."

On NBC's America's Got Talent on Tuesday, August 16, 2011, the act Those Funny Little People performed a routine to the They Might Be Giants version of this song.[7]

In the Popular TV Series Raising Hope, Maw Maw is a pro at Jenga while listening to the song.

In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode featuring The Castle of Fu-Manchu, Tom Servo recites a few lines after Joel says "Oh, sure just barge into Istanbul... hey, at least it's not Constantinople."

On the June 3, 2009 episode of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Craig and many dancers dressed up in "Turkish" garb performed a humorous cover of the They Might Be Giants version.[8]


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople) (EP) — Infobox Album | Name = Istanbul (Not Constantinople) Type = EP Artist = They Might Be Giants Released = May 14 1990 Recorded = Genre = Alternative rock Length = 14:17 Label = Elektra Records Producer = Reviews = Last album = Flood (1990) This… …   Wikipedia

  • Constantinople — prop. n. the former capital of the Eastern Roman Empire; it was built on the site of ancient Byzantium, and the name was changed to Istanbul by the Turks. Syn: Istanbul, Stambul, Stamboul. [WordNet 1.5] Note: The name change was the subject of a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Constantinople (disambiguation) — Constantinople may refer to: Constantinople, historic city name of present day Istanbul in Turkey See Byzantium, Names of Istanbul The See of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Constantinople Records Constantinople, a song by The… …   Wikipedia

  • Constantinople — This article is about the city before the Fall of Constantinople (1453). For a more detailed approach after 1453, see History of Istanbul. For other uses, see Constantinople (disambiguation). Map of Byzantine Constantinople …   Wikipedia

  • Istanbul —   City   Top: Topkapı Palace – Hagia Sophia – Blue Mosque Center: Beyoğlu; …   Wikipedia

  • ISTANBUL — ISTANBUL, city in N.W. turkey , on both sides of the Bosphorus at its entrance on the Sea of Marmara (for history prior to 1453, see constantinople ). Constantinople was taken from the Byzantine emperor in 1453 by the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • CONSTANTINOPLE — (Byzantium; Heb. קושטנטיני, קושטנטינא, קושטאנדינא, קושטא), former capital of the byzantine and ottoman empires; now istanbul , Turkey. Under the Byzantine empire Jews were settled in various areas of Constantinople. In the fourth and fifth… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Istanbul Military Museum — ( tr. Askeri Müze) is dedicated to one thousand years of Turkish military history. It is one of the leading museums of its kind in the world. The museum is open to the public everyday except Mondays and Tuesdays.The museum initially opened in… …   Wikipedia

  • Istanbul — /is tahn boohl , tan ; is tahn bool , tan /; Turk. /is tahm bool/, n. a port in NW Turkey, on both sides of the Bosporus: built by Constantine I on the site of ancient Byzantium; capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and of the Ottoman Empire;… …   Universalium

  • Constantinople Conference — The Conference delegates The 1876–1877 Constantinople Conference (Turkish: Tersane Konferansı from the conference venue Tersane Sarayı or Shipyard Palace ) of the Great Powers (Britain, Russia, France, Germany, Austria Hungary …   Wikipedia

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