Query---"tap" = possum?

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Sat Dec 1 14:50:15 UTC 2007

It was my first thought, too, that "tap" or "tap and" looks like a contraction (the result of either "dialect writing" or naive transcription) of "terrapin" (which I myself, a white Southerner, initially misspelled "tarrapin"--a spelling that does represent my pronunciation!).

When Norm Cohen (as quoted by non-cousin Gerald) says, "'Tap' does seem to mean 'possum' there," is he basing the assertion on clues from elsewhere in the song? I don't see how the quoted snippet could itself be taken as evidence that "tap" means "possum."


---- Original message ----
>Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2007 21:11:38 -0500
>From: "Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET>
>>Is anyone familiar with "tap" = "possum"?  I received the query below from Norm Cohen (no relation) and see on Google that the lyrics are from a "Negro Song."  "Tap" does seem to mean "possum" there, and if so, what would its origin be?
>I don't recognize "tap" = "possum". Maybe the DARE editor knows something I don't.
>On the Web, the song version with "tap" is relatively rare (at a glance); other versions have instead:
>Note the similarity in sound between "Met the tap an' then the toad" and "Met the te'pin, then the toad" ("te'pin" = "terrapin").
>Maybe the transcription with "tap" is erroneous, using "tap" for "terrapin" and also conflating a version with "terrapin" with a another version with "possum" ... or maybe somebody made the conflation in performing the song.
>I suppose there are other possibilities: e.g., maybe "terrapin" = "tap[pin']" and "tap[pin']" means "tap[ping]-bird" = "peckerwood".
>-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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