"Poontang" etymology (speculative)

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Mon Jul 26 04:28:27 UTC 2004

Here is "Oh! Mr. Mitchell" as sung by Clara Smith in 1929: a very early
example of "poontang". At this time "poontang" = "sex" already existed, as
exemplified in _Look Homeward, Angel_ (1929, relevant parts set in about
1913: three instances). The words on my record are generally clear and
unambiguous (two are possibly questionable as shown below).


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.

I like your good peach cobbler and your apple pie,
But when I get your poontang you will hear me cry:

Oh, oh, Mr. Mitchell, I'm crazy about your sweet poontang.

Mr. Mitchell owned a sweet confectionery stand,
Way down south in Lou'siana.
Mr. Mitchell always have [had?] good pies and cakes on hand,
Surge [Served?] in a pleasing manner.

Miss Lindy Lou, she tasted his brand new confection;
Mr. Mitchell called it sweet poontang.

And when Miss Lindy Lou with it made good connection
This is what she yelled before the gang.

Oh, oh, Mr. Mitchell, I'm crazy about your sweet poontang.
Oh, oh, Mr. Mitchell, it's got me going with a bang.

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

Oh, oh, Mr. Mitchell, I'm crazy about your sweet poontang.

Give me lots of poontang;
Please don't make me plead.
Can't you see you really got
Just what I need?

Oh, oh, Mr. Mitchell, I'm wild about your sweet poontang.


Presumably there is a double-entendre here, with "poontang" meaning
superficially "a Louisiana confection" but also meaning "sex". "It's a
whang" probably means "It's a real whang-doodle" or so, i.e., "It's really
something" but it may be a double-entendre too.

Can there be a clue here as to the origin of "poontang"? Is there a
Louisiana confection called "poontang" or something close? [Yes.] Of course
that doesn't have to explain the etymology; maybe this is just a
double-entendre based on similarity between two already existing
etymologically unrelated near-homonyms.

Here's another song, supposedly a folk song, called "Poontang Little,
Poontang Small", performed by Jimmie Strothers on guitar in 1936. I can't
understand large parts, which are mumbled. I quote relevant excerpts from
the liner notes.


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.
Oh my babe, oh my salty thing.


Hung my poontang from the wire,
[?] comes down to put out his fire.
Oh my babe, took my salty thing.

Put my dress above my knees,
Gonna give my poontang who I please.
Oh my babe, [took] my salty thing.



There's a lot of apparent nonsense in this song, but it's hard to picture
anybody hanging his/her poontang from a wire or a fence. One can't very
well hang up the sex act, nor even the sex organ. Presumably this is
another double-entendre. Can one hang up some confection, by any chance?
Well, yes, puddings have been hung up routinely: could "poontang" = "pudding"?

Does "pudding" mean "sex"? Sure it does, or did; examples are found in
Farmer and Henley etc. [I believe a closely related word persists in "pud"
= "penis", which was once pronounced /pUd/ as in its ancestor "pudding" =

In the earliest printed citations, "poontang" is treated as an uncountable
noun, as if a substance or commodity rather than a person or countable
object. In this respect I think "poontang" is analogous to "jelly roll"
(which is perhaps a little older according to the record).

OED and other authorities prefer "poontang" < French "putain". DARE quotes
a 1950 AS article to the effect that the origin is in Louisiana Creole. But
grammatically "get some poontang" is more like "get some pudding" than like
"get some prostitute". The sense is also that of "pudding" in its old sense
"sex"/"f*cking" rather than exactly that of "prostitute".

But what about the phonetics?

The standard word for "pudding" in Louisiana Creole appears to be "poutin".
Here is the entry in Valdman et al., _Dictionary of Louisiana Creole_
(1998) (p. 381):


poutin n. (CA): poudin (ST); lapoutin (BT). 1. Filling for cake or pie;
garniture. _Lapoutin se sa t aranje sa pou me`t an te gato._ [poutin] is
what you make to put between slices of cake. (BT) 2. Dumplings; boulettes
de pa^te bouillie. (BT) 3. Pudding; pudding, flan. _Poutin rezen._ Raisin
pudding. (CA); _Poutin diri_ Rice pudding. (CA); _To fe en bouyi dile pou
fe en poudin diri._ You make boiled milk to make rice pudding. (ST)


[CA and ST and BT are regions from which material was collected.
Incidentally, note the definite article attached to the word in one
version; this is now part of the word apparently; this phenomenon is a
feature of Creole, says the book.]

I suppose this may be cognate with French "boudin" (a Louisiana favorite).
Note "boudiner" = "copulate" in _Vocabula Amatoria_. Maybe it's also
cognate with English "pudding"?

According to the book, the pronunciation should be approximately /putE~/,
by comparison to "putain" (French) /pytE~/. The "pudding" etymon is
marginally preferable to the "prostitute" one phonetically, although both
fail to account for the first nasal in "poontang".

In summary, "poontang" < "poutin" seems to be in some respects a better
conjecture than "poontang" < "putain": slightly better phonetically, better
grammatically, maybe better in sense depending upon whether "pudding" or
"poutin" [still] carried the meaning "sex" ca. 1900-1920.

I do NOT claim that this "poutin" etymology is in any way proven or
certain. The question is still open AFAIK. I do suggest that the "probably"
applied in OED etc. to the "putain" etymology is unjustified and should at
very least be replaced by "possibly" ... or maybe by "wag".

Questions and corrections are welcome. Does HDAS have anything new to add?

-- Doug Wilson

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