"Rastus" < "Jazz Means Happy and Loose Like" (1917)

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 6 21:17:26 UTC 2007

Charles Doyle writes:

... "Leroy" (pronounced with the first syllable, [li] ...

Is that the way that you meant to express your comment, Charlie? you
appear to imply that there may exist more than one way to pronounce
"Leroy." Is there one? For true?

Over the course of the years, I've known any number of Leroys and
Tyrones, not to mention Willies, Orlandos, Rufuses, and an annoying
number of guys surnamed "Washington" and named "George." Once, I even
thought that I knew a "Teedo." However, my mother, whose command of BE
is superior to mine, she not having lived outside of the Deep South
till she was thirty-ish, straightened me out. The guy's name was
really "Theodore." To paraphrase Chester A. Riley, "What a
disappointin' development that was!" There are any number of guys
named "Theodore," but there was only one Teedo. Sigh! "Marion" is also
a common name for men. Down in Texas, there was Marion "Jap" Jones.
Unfortunately, I don't know how he came by his nickname. In Saint
Louis, there was the legendary, movie-star-handsome Marion Timms
(spelled "Thames"). His name was legend because he was the only guy in
high school who claimed to be a cunnilinguist "It tastes like shrimp,"
he told us. (Back in those days, oral sex was so taboo that black guys
didn't even claim to have gotten brain and here Marion was, claiming
to have *given* brain and *not* claiming to have gotten any. The stud
was a champion! A bad motherfucker! With nuts the size of muskmelons!
He was a god! "Taboo! Motherfuck a taboo! I'm not as bad as I can be.
I'm as bad as I wona be!")


On Dec 4, 2007 8:13 AM, Charles Doyle <cdoyle at uga.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Charles Doyle <cdoyle at UGA.EDU>
> Subject:      "Rastus" < "Jazz Means Happy and Loose Like" (1917)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> It is my impresssion/recollection that sometime around the late 1950s, "Rastus" as the prototypical name for the black male protagonist in racist jokes started alternating with "Leroy" (pronounced with the first syllable, [li], stressed), and now he is often "Tyrone." Perhaps the changes parallel the progress of the character from the plantation to the 'hood.
> --Charlie
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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