Thoughts on "cool"

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Tue Feb 12 00:32:00 UTC 2008

>Next cite is this one:
>1902 E. P. MORAN & P. L. DUNBAR Evah Dahkey is King (song) in _N.Y.
>Amer. & Jrnl._ 26 Oct. (Music Suppl.), When we's crowned we don't wear
>satins, Kase de way we dress is cooler.
>Here is the entire verse, or at least one version of it:
>Evah dahkey has a lineage dat de white folks can't compete wid
>An' a title, such as duke or earl, why we wouldn't wipe our feet wid
>Fa a kingdom is our station, an' we's each a rightful ruler
>When we's crowned we don't wear satins, Kase de way we dress is cooler. Ho!
>But our power's jest as mighty, nevah judge kings by deir cloes
>You could nevah tell a porter wid a ring stuck through his nose.

Note that the song was part of an operetta: "In Dahomey", presumably
set in, uh, Dahomey. The song seems to be [semi-]humorous.

At the site linked above, there is a picture of what appears to be
the cover of the sheet music. It shows a man carrying some long
spears; he's not wearing much, but he does have some jewelry; I can't
tell whether he has a nose ring. (There is also a picture of another
man, presumably playing an African noble or chief or official,
wearing semi-Europeanized clothing, with a coat and top hat but no
conventional trousers.)

Compare: retrospective from 1909: Booker T. Washington:

<<One picture I recall vividly ... was the picture of George
Washington placed side by side with a naked African, having a ring in
his nose and a dagger in his hand.>>

The way the stereotypical Africans dressed was cooler (= less hot)
since they didn't wear very much. This is probably intended
[semi-]humorously in the song.

At least that's how I read it.

-- Doug Wilson

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