Minstrel's Dialect

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OHIO.EDU
Tue Nov 11 15:46:30 UTC 2003

Interesting that this Southern town (in Kentucky?) would use a long 'e' in
"de," so close to presumably NS schwa-using people when Foster wrote the
song and Duane saw the show--but the cultural divide would have been great
by the '50s, of course.  I'm ashamed to say even our rural community way up
North in Minnesota had a minstrel show in the '50s (and probably before),
with blackface, a cake walk, and howls of laughter from the all-white
audience, most of whom had never seen an African American (I hadn't until a
"lyceum" show came to our high school--a serious musical group,
thankfully).  Although I don't recall pronunciation features at this long
remove, I would guess, with Matthew, that our unknowing "minstrels" also
used the long 'e'.

At 09:59 PM 11/10/2003 -0500, you wrote:
>On Mon, 10 Nov 2003 18:44:35 EST Dale Coye <Dalecoye at AOL.COM> writes:
> > You write: For example: How did they pronounce the word "de" as in
> > "De
> > Camptown Ladies
> > sing dis song, doo-dah! doo-dah!" Was it with a long or a short
> > "e"?
> >
> > If you mean by long e, the sound of bee, and by short e the sound of
> > bet, it
> > was most likely neither--it's the same "e" as in "the"-- a schwa.
>I live in the small town where Stephen Foster went to school, and
>Camptown, of racing fame, is a village just down the road. More
>important, though, this rural, white community had an annual blackface
>minstral at the local theater well into the 1950s. It was the biggest
>entertainment event of the year. At least the biggest public
>entertainment. And I distinctly remember that de Camptown Races was
>always pronounced with a long "e". Whether that's the way it was in other
>places and earlier times I can't say.

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