The 1650s "macaroni" and the OED

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sun Jan 24 04:20:57 UTC 2010

At 1/23/2010 10:22 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>3)  In ridicule of Cromwell, the words "Yankee doodle came to town  /
>Upon a Kentish pony; / He stuck a feather in his cap / And called him
>[sic; "himself"?] macaroni" were written.

Furtherly searching in Google for the phrase "upon a kentish pony":

1)   The "him" may be a reference to the *pony*, not Cromwell!  (As
might an "it" in that place, in the later lyrics!)  From the New York
Times archives, Jan. 29, 1856, p. 4, "Notes and Queries", there is a
letter that first asserts that Nadir Shah and "Yumas Kouli Khan" are
the same person (the writer is correct here), and then goes on to
discuss the Duychinks' _Cyclopedia_ article.  The letter-writer says:

"Why Macaroni? ... In those days--say two hundred years ago--there
was an importation from Italy of a very smooth, sleek, gentle breed
of horses, small in size, and ambling in gait, used chiefly for
palfreys, or ladies' riding ponies. They were called Macaronis, and
continued to be called so down to the days of our grandfathers. I
find the last literary mention of them is in a famous epigram of Sir
Benjamin Backbite. (Vide School for Scandal, Act. 1).
'Sure never were seen two such beautiful ponies,
Other hoses are clowns, but these macaronies;
To give them this name I am sure can't be wrong,
Since their legs are so slim and their tails are so long.' "

The letter-writer says the humor is in the contrast of the "extremely
rough and unlicked specimen of horse-flesh" that is the Kentish pony
with the "macaroni".

[The verses and "macaronies" indeed are in "School for Scandal", as
given by Gutenberg.  This sense of "macaroni" is not in the OED.]

2) yields a reference
to "The Real Personages of Mother Goose, written by Katherine Elwis
Thomas in 1930. This book is a scholarly discourse on the true
meaning of nursery rhymes. The Yankee Doodle article begins page 259."

claims "the most exhaustive treatise on the subject [is by]
historical writer Stuart Murray, in his book America's Song: The
Story of "Yankee Doodle" (1999, Images from the Past, Bennington, Vt.) ...".

4)  At
the claim made in a ""Songs of the Revolution; a paper read before
the General David Humphreys branch of the Connecticut Society of the
Sons of the American Revolution, May twenty-ninth, MDCCCXCIII" is
that the horse was "wearing a plume fastened into a kind of knot
called a 'macaroni.' "  [This meaning is not in the OED either.]

And there are various propagations of the various allegations about "macaroni".


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