Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Fri Jul 23 06:47:49 UTC 2004

>>Any connection between "pearltongue" and "poontang"?
>Probably not. The OED suggests French "putain" for the latter, which
>sounds good to me. Also, "poontang" is - or, at least, was, back in the
>day - felt by blacks to be somewhat racist.

I posted something on "poontang" a while back. The "putain" etymology seems
OK to me too ... as a guess or conjecture. Apparently clear evidence is
lacking and there are several other possibilities IMHO. I do not suggest
"poontang" < "pearltongue".

I have serious doubt as to whether "poontang" generally has/had any racial
overtone at all. This is a little complicated and I won't go into it now.

I have some records here. Here is "Poontang Little, Poontang Small" (on the
CD entitled "Black Appalachia"), supposedly recorded in 1936:


<<Poontang little and poontang small,
Poontang stretches like a rubber ball.
Oh my babe, took my salty thing. ...

<<Gonna hang my poontang from the fence,
Oh, the man come to get it ain't got no sense. ....>>


Some of the lyrics are unintelligible. What does it mean?

Here is "Oh! Mister Mitchell" sung by Clara Smith in 1929. The lyrics are
generally quite clear:


<<Oh, oh, Mr. Mitchell, I'm crazy about your sweet poontang.
Oh, oh, Mr. Mitchell, I'll tell the world that it's a whang. ....

<<Your cherry pie is juicy, so is your jelly roll;
But when you give me poontang I just lose control. ....>>


Here "poontang" is a confection supplied by Mr. Mitchell (a confectionery
stand proprietor in Louisiana): the obvious interpretation IMHO (with
double-entendre of course) is "poontang" = "sex", without gender
specificity (let alone racial specificity). The date is about as early as
the earliest conventional citation of the word. I have transcribed the
entire lyrics, in case anybody's curious.

-- Doug Wilson

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