Deep Down in the Jungle redux

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun May 21 22:07:41 UTC 2006

At 12:26 AM -0400 5/21/06, Wilson Gray wrote:
>Abrahams, Roger D. Deep down in the jungle... Chicago: Aldine
>Publishing Co. 1967, revised 1970.
>On p.94, Abrahams notes that one of his informants had once been a
>member of a vocal quartet called The Turbans, "that had made a few
>records." That's damning with faint praise at its best. The Turbans
>and their successors were seminal groups in the development of R&B.
>The group had two national hits, ca.1955, "When You Dance" and "Sister
>Sookie." The latter contains one of my favorite R&B verses:
>I believe Sister Sookie done lost her mind
>She wears a pair of shoes of the strangest kind
>With the heels in front and the heels behind
>I couldn't tell _whether_ she was coming or gwine
>The rhythm of the song as its sung requires the use of "... couldn't
>tell IF ..." The use of "whether" simply blows up the rhythm, leading
>me to theorize that this was a dialect so conservative that "whether"
>couldn't be replaced by "if."
A variant of that last couplet occurs in "Long John", recorded by
those "musical miscreants" (so described on their remastered 1999 CD
release) the Holy Modal Rounders in December 1963:

Now Long John made him
A pair of shoes
They were the funniest shoes
That you ever could see.
They had a heel in front
And a heel behind,
You could never tell where
Long John was gwine

[Note the "personal dative" in the first line.]


The American Dialect Society -

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