On Campbells and camels (and scare quotes)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Aug 4 11:54:00 UTC 2000

At 4:29 PM -0500 8/4/00, GEORGE THOMPSON wrote:
>         I have had since the 1960s an LP by an itinerant black street singer
>named Pink Anderson, called, as I recall, Pink Anderson, Medicine
>Show Man.  (Pinkney Anderson, born February 12, 1900, in Laurens, S.
>C. -- this from The Encyclopedia of Popular Music.)  One of the songs
>on the record is "He's in the Jail House Now."  This contains a line:
>  "I have a friend named Camel, he used to drink and gamel. . . ."
>When I used to listen to this, I very acutely translated "gamel" into
>"gamble", but it was years before it occured to me that Pink's friend
>was (in my pronunciation) named Campbell.  (I don't recall what
>misadventure befell Camel in the song, but "he's in the jail house

I have a tribute album to Jimmie Rodgers (the "Singin' Brakeman"--to
use a pair of non-scare, non-emphatic quotes) that includes the song
"In the Jail House Now", so it's evidently a Jimmie Rodgers song (or
did Rodgers borrow it from elsewhere?).  It's sung by Steve Earle,
who employs a [b] in both Campbell and gamble.  The opening couplet,
as sung here, is actually

        I had a friend named Campbell
        He used to rob, steal and gamble

(but as it develops he drank a lot too).

>(I don't recall what
misadventure befell Camel in the song, but "he's in the jail house  now".)

Well, since you asked...

        He went tomcattin' one night
        When he started a big fight
        And a big policeman came and knocked him down
        He's in the jail house now.

        I told him over again
        Quit drinkin' whiskey, lay off of that gin.
        He's in the jail house now.

As for those "fresh" quotes, I certainly do use "scare quotes" all
the time, a term I first learned in philosophers' circles, but never
for what I'd be happy to call "emphatic quotes".   Glad to see Jesse,
Lynne, Arnold and others had the same take.


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