"Poontang" etymology (speculative)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Mon Jul 26 13:33:09 UTC 2004

Jonathon Green is correct about double-entendre blues. I think "poontang" implies "poontang" and puns the confection.

Hanging stuff on trees is just whimsy.  Advanced folklorists and rugby players will recall the Scottish stanza:

                  John Brown the factor he was there, and most surprised to see
                  Four-and-twenty maidenheids a-hangin frae a tree.

Lesbians need not be invoked if "poontang" simply means sex without specifically female overtones.  This is not only possible but seems to me likely.

Thomas Wolfe, author of the well-known 1929 cite in HDAS and elsewhere, was born and raised in North Carolina.

My impression is that the word was once most common in the South.  Racial overtones are an occasional and not a defining feature.


Jonathon Green <slang at ABECEDARY.NET> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Jonathon Green
Subject: Re: "Poontang" etymology (speculative)

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

> 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.

Both Doug Wilson's songs are very typical of what might be termed a
'dirty' variety of 1920s/30s blues, as sung by the likes of Bessie Smith
(Nobody In Town Can Bake A Sweet Jelly Roll Like Mine) or Louise Bogan
('Ain't nobody in town can grind a coffee like mine.'). However, given the
primary term and its acknowledged meaning: the vagina, what is unusual
about "Oh! Mr. Mitchell" is that the lyrics are given to a woman. The
whole thing is indeed riddled with doubles entendres, but the slang terms
'poontang', 'cherry pie' and 'jellyroll' are almost invariably female
attributes. 'Whang', equally gender-linked, usually refers to a penis.
This is perhaps silly territory, but given the overt sexuality of the
song, could 'Mr.' Mitchell have been an undercover reference to some
long-forgotten lesbian?

As for the Jimmie Strothers song, "Poontang Little, Poontang Small", this
is very much more what one would expect: the poontang is unarguably the
vagina. ('Salt', as in in 'salty thing', once mean lecherous in SE.) As
for the hanging and stretching imagery, is there some kind of gruesome but
popular fantasy therein? Very similar imagery occurs in a highly
misogynistic scene in Jim Thompson's novel _King Blood_ (set in 1900, pub.

Jonathon Green

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