"Poontang" etymology (speculative)

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Tue Jul 27 01:26:45 UTC 2004

Responding to Jonathon Green and Jonathan Lighter:

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

But puns what word? "Pudding" is too different IMHO. The Creole word
"poutin" seems to be virtually nonexistent in English: I can't find it
anywhere, even on the Web. If this song has a pun on "poutin" it indicates
some currency of the word "poutin" in circles where "poontang" was also
known, which makes "poutin" more attractive as a candidate etymon. Perhaps
Barry Popik can make some statement about "poutin" (NOT Quebecois "poutine"!).

I admit however that it is also quite possible that there is no real
double-entendre in the word "poontang" here, rather that the confection was
just an imaginary one named "poontang", just an excuse to play with the
'dirty' word. [There apparently was a much later pop song with "poontang"
in which it was given a bogus gloss ("poon means a hug, tang means a kiss"
or something like that) ...
http://www.roctober.com/roctober/greatness/treniers.html ....] But in this
case is it significant that the imaginary sweet was of Louisiana origin?

Anyway, I've made the lyrics available, and I think they're interesting.
These are the only early song examples of "poontang" which I've found; if
anybody has any more please let me know.

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

I agree and I believe the usual early meaning was "sex"/"copulation" and
not "vagina" (a fine and unprovable distinction, I suppose, in many cases).

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

Asheville was apparently the model for the fictional setting ... not Creole
country exactly.

I didn't know of the Creole word "poutin" until last week.

Ignoring the two songs I quoted, which I admit are possibly entirely
irrelevant, "poutin" is a pretty good candidate etymon on its own merits
IMHO ... IF one assumes a Louisiana French/Creole origin. The usual
alternative speculation, I believe, is US military origin, which permits at
least two obvious candidates (French, Tagalog) IMHO, as I said before.
There are still other possibilities, perhaps including the true one which
nobody has guessed.

-- Doug Wilson

More information about the Ads-l mailing list