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From the song Istanbul (Not Constantinople):

So take me back to Constantinople

No, you can't go back to Constantinople

Been a long time gone, Constantinople

Why did Constantinople get the works?

That's nobody's business but the Turks

What do they exactly mean by "That's nobody's business but …"?

The former line has already been explained very well, but to be sure to understand all the lyrics, I wood like someone explaining me also the last phrase:

"That's nobody's business but the Turks"

Might mean:

  • That only matters the Turks (or whoever), nobody else has the competence to name this city, or:
  • This can only be answered by the Turks (that remains the mystery of the Turks), because there is no reason to name it Istanbul.

Which of these two interpretations is right? Or something other?

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It's nobody's business but the Turks why Constantinople got the works.

It only concerns the Turks that the name Istanbul was given to the city that had been called Constantinople.

To get the works is very old US slang. It means generally to be the victim of something. To be in a very bad situation as the result of some action. Often used as: to give someone the works. To put the person into a difficult situation when the person has done something bad to another person.

The songwriter is describing the change in name from Constantinople to Istanbul. The Turkification of Turkish names (under Attaturk) is a complex subject. However, one needn't know much about it to understand what the songwriter meant here.

The use of the expression here "get the works" is really being used more as a rhyme with Turks than any historical truth.

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I don't think the reference to Constantinople getting 'the works' is refering to the changing of the name, but rather the fact that Constantinople (and with it the last remenance of the Roman Empire) was captured and sacked by the Ottoman Turks on the 29th May, 1453. Interestingly the city was not originonally called Constantinople but instead 'Byzantium'; this is the name that historians now give to the later Eastern portion of the Roman Empire.

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  • +1 Really glad you mentioned this. I don't know anything about the song in question, but it seems to be it makes both explicit and implicit references to post-Ataturk identity issues and geopolitical tensions that the Turkish people are grappling with. – Eddie Kal Mar 8 at 5:19

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