Query---"tap" = possum?

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Sat Dec 1 18:39:46 UTC 2007

The line I'm familiar with is indeed "Met a terrapin and a toad."

  The possum in the verse is a bit-player, not one of the stars.


Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Wilson Gray
Subject: Re: Query---"tap" = possum?

In E TX BE, /r/ can be freely deleted, intervocalically. So,
"tarrapin" (though Charlie claims to be a "Southerner," - shame!
shame! - he's also from E TX) can be either "t[aer@]pin" or
"t[ae@]pin." However, I have no certain way of dropping the -in,
leaving the required "tap" [tae at p]. The rhythm of the song, perhaps?
An abbreviation? A clipping?

BTW, back in the 'Sixties, the Grand Dragon of the Kew Klux Klan was
interviewed (see! I do read it for the articles!) in Playboy. In the
course of the interview, an exchange like unto the following took

GD: In modern times, there has never been a President who was a Southerner.

PB: Really? What about Lyndon Johnson?

GD (and here I quote): "He's not a Southerner. He's a Texan."

Got that, Charlie? :-) Surely, there can be no authority greater than
that of the Grand Dragon himself.


On Dec 1, 2007 9:50 AM, Charles Doyle wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Charles Doyle
> Subject: Re: Query---"tap" = possum?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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."
> --Charlie
> _____________________________________________________________
> ---- Original message ----
> >Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2007 21:11:38 -0500
> >From: "Douglas G. Wilson"
> >
> >>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:
> >
> >bullfrog
> >possum
> >peckerwood
> >terrapin
> >
> >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
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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