Linda Owens <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
My favorite is "Jenny Dang the Weaver" as dang in
Scottish-English means "to strike with a blunt instrument."
No doubt this refers to the spinning jenny, the invention of
which put many handweavers out of work.
Some people have noted many tunes mentioning "The Hag". This is
often used to translate the Irish word "Cailleach" which occurs in
many Irish placenames and is thought to refer to an old Celtic
goddess roughly equivalent to the Hindu Kali. (There is, however,
no linguistic relationship between the similar names.) "Cailleach
an Airgid"--"The Hag with the Money" is a satirical song referring
to a particular person who could be identified by some of the older
inhabitants of Connemara. Perhaps she might even be the Mary
O'Flaherty who is mentioned in the song.
Some other odd ones:
"Drag Her Off the Road"
"Fasten the Leg in Her"
"Whip Her and Gird Her"
(In Irish, machines and such are usually feminine in grammatical
Tune titles referring to whiskey stills:
"The Ewie with the Crooked Horn"
"The One-Horned Cow"
(the corkscrew shape of the condensor is compared to an animal's horn--
"the one-horned cow gives the sweetest milk")
"Hand Me Down the Tackling"
"The Kid on the Mountain"--Joyce's "Ancient Music of Ireland" gives
this under the title "Bogadh Faoi Shusa", or "Motion Under a Blanket".
This led a former girlfriend of mine to demand that I compose a tune
titled "Motion Under a T-Shirt"--but I always call it "Bogadh Faoi
T-Leine" to be a little more tasteful.
Other salacious titles can be found in the Vickers Collection
(The Great Northern Tune Book):
"Four Bare Legs Together"
"Gallop and Shite"
"Bustle Her in the Blanket"
"Claw Her Weam"
"I Cannot Get Time to Play with My Honey"
"Tumble Her Over Again"
"The Whore's March"
"Clarty Bitch the Maiden"
"How Can I Keep My Maidenhead"
"Lasses Pisses Brandy"
"The New Way of Getting Bairns"
The last is no doubt related to "Making Babies By Steam".
The prize of course has to be awarded to the well-known slip-jig
whose Irish title is sometimes translated "The Choice Wife".
Other odd titles:
"The Beer Stains"
"The Cow Bit Off the Miller's Thumb"
"The Relishing Bit"
"You'll Never Be Like My Other Good Man"
I suggest leafing through a good dictionary of historical slang--
many titles will become clear. Someone mentioned "The Black
Joke" which is a good example. This is related to card-players'
slang for the Ace of Spades, and was also the name of a famous
pirate ship. Old card-players' slang will completely explain the
humour in the song "The Game of Cards".
From such a source you might also find that "pop" means to pawn and
a "weasel" is a hat. Hence "Pop Goes the Weasel" means you are
short of money and have to pawn your hat. When clothes were
expensive relative to people's incomes it was a common
practice to borrow money on an item of clothing. Charles Dickens'
first book "Sketches by Boz" has some interesting descriptions of
A fascinating subject--these titles can be a window into the
popular culture of two or three centuries ago!