[Ads-l] Variants of this *are* in Google:
hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jul 1 08:05:02 UTC 2015
Mary Mack / Dressed in black / Silver and gold buttons / All down her back
/ She asked her mother / For fifteen cents / To see the elephant / Jump the
fence / He jumped so high / That he touched the sky / And didn't come back
/ Till the Fourth of July.
I learned this version from my mother, ca. 1938. It's the chant that
accompanies a kind of "hand-jive" played between two girls. Naturally, as
soon as it was made manifest to me by other men-children that this was a
chick thing, I stopped playing at it - I was so young that I wasn't
co-ordinated enough to play it, which is not to say that I ever became so
co-ordinated - and got pissed off that my mother would take advantage of my
innocence to teach me chick stuff.
On the very first page of GB, there's a book containing an academic
"In black girls' play, 'black' may be symbolically associated at some level
with one's ethnic identity - dressing, as it were, oneself in blackness, so
When I learned this chant, I was too young to have developed the least
concept of any ethnic/racial identity. I was, however, already *heavily*
invested in the fact that I was a boy.
The same "authoress," as we guys used to say in the good old days, also
claims that the etymology of the hand-jive, "hambone" - its rhythm and
accompanying chant are the source of both of the songs, "Bo-Diddley," by
Bo-Diddley, and "Mockingbird," by teen siblings, Inez Foxx and Charlie
Foxx, covered, note for note, ten years later by James Taylor and Carly
Simon - is _*hand bone*_. The primary action of the hambone is rhythmic
slapping of the "hambone" or thigh, wherein _hambone_ is a clear extension
of _ham_ = "thigh," for purposes of rhythm. The words to both of the songs
are slight variants of the "clean" chants accompanying the hambone that I
learned, back in the day.
FYI; there's plenty of hamboning to be seen on YouTube. This version
is clearly very close to the source - if it's not the source - of
"Mockingbird." It's slightly bowdlerized:
"Hambone, Hambone, where's your wife?
In the kitchen, cooking rice"
I learned that second line as,
"Around the corner, shooting dice,"
in St. Louis.
One of the children doing the chanting, Decla Clark, grew up to become the
R&B great, Dee Clark. The chanters/hamboners were considered so unusual
that they were featured by themselves on national TV as "The Hambone Kids."
In like manner as Richard Pryor's jealous home-boys back in Peoria, I - in
high school, at the time, 1952 - used to think, "Shucks! What're they doing
on the television? We used do to that same thing, back at [Our Lady of the
Visi] 'Tation, in the back of the schoolyard!"
All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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