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I wonder what this sentence means:

The flowers that bloom in September trala ...

quoted from http://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/lane9/news/World/28104.asp

What's trala? Instead I heard people said "Ta la" as some kind of meaning-free words.

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"The flowers that bloom in September" would seem to be a reference to a "late-bloomer", or something good that comes along unexpectedly later in life. But in that article, he's talking about a sixteen year-old, so I'm baffled. Maybe this is a cultural idiom? –  Chris B. Behrens Sep 23 '11 at 21:46
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Voting to close as "too localised". We can't be analysing every oddball thing someone writes in an internet comment box. –  FumbleFingers Sep 23 '11 at 22:22
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closed as too localized by FumbleFingers, aedia λ, simchona, Daniel, kiamlaluno Sep 24 '11 at 12:55

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4 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

As others have indicated, the (slightly altered) quote is from Gilbert & Sullivan. In its original form, it means something like "there is such promise/hope in youth". Substituting "September" for "Spring" changes the allusion from spring = season of renewal and freshness to September = start of the school year, but I think the interpretation remains much the same: the commenter is remarking on how young some of the swimmers are.

As for tra la (or, as I more commonly encounter it, tra la la), like the dictionary says, it's "a set of nonsensical syllables used while humming a refrain". Tra la la can also be used as spoken syllables that indicate singing, and by extension, gaiety.

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Note that there is no such expression in English as "ta la". "La la la" can be used much like "tra la", but I've never encountered it with fewer than three syllables. –  Marthaª Sep 23 '11 at 22:35
    
Ta-ta as in "ta ta for now" is an expression that could sound similar, though. –  aedia λ Sep 23 '11 at 22:47
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They are referencing Gilbert & Sullivan, The Mikado ;"The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring, Tra La"

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But surely "The flowers that bloom in the spring (trala) have nothing to do with the case"? (2nd verse) In other words, what has G&S (or flowers) to do with swimming champions? –  TimLymington Sep 23 '11 at 21:54
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I imagine the original writer only said September because that's the current month. It's not a known idiom, I'm sure. Even the original "Spring" version has no meaningful level of currency such that it could be called an idiomatic way of talking about welcome things. That original writer was just parading his cultured background, but probably no-one else on the site knew what he was referring to anyway. –  FumbleFingers Sep 23 '11 at 22:20
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It seems to be a variation on this duet by Gilbert and Sullivan:

The flowers that bloom in the spring,

Tra la,

Breathe promise of merry sunshine —

As we merrily dance and we sing,

Tra la,

We welcome the hope that they bring,

Tra la...

Because the competitions under discussion occurred in September, the commentator substituted that for "spring."

"To bloom" can also mean to flourish, as these athletes clearly did.

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Thanks! What does tra la mean? Instead I heard people said "Ta la" as some kind of meaning-free words. –  Tim Sep 23 '11 at 21:57
    
@Tim: The tra-la part (often tra-la-la) doesn't mean anything in itself. It's just a way of conveying an air of insouciant gaiety. Like ta-dah! is used to convey the sense of a sudden impressive/unexpected display. There's also wah-wah with a drop in pitch and extended second syllable to convey comic pathos, but I don't know how to spell that one without it looking like the guitar effects pedal. –  FumbleFingers Sep 23 '11 at 22:13
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The "trala" is misspelled: it is "tra-la", and actually has a dictionary entry here and here

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