Q: Translate the "Yanker didel" lyrics?

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Wed Jan 27 14:31:09 UTC 2010

Thanks, Wilson.

At 1/27/2010 12:34 AM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>You may have to ask someone professionally-trained in Dutch. I don't
>consider myself at all knowledgeable in Dutch, but this looks, at
>best, only semi-literate,

As one might see in migrant laborers?

>Ordinarily, it would be simple enough to
>translate the words using an on-line Neerlands-Engels woordenboek or
>using one of the many multi-volume dictionaries available at Widener
>and figuring it out from there.

I did try a few of the words on-line, like dider,
dudel, lanter, without success.  But considering
that the spellings may be at least variants (!),
I didn't have a clue as to what variants to
try.  And I haven't been to Widener in the
interim, although I might try tomorrow.  Perhaps
there is an historical dictionary of
Dutch?  (Written in English, so I can understand
it?  :-) )  I am, of course, hoping the words, or
similar, go back to Cromwell's time, not just the Duyckincks.

>The Dutch word for "milk" is spelled _melk_, that for "and" is _en_ <
>_end_, not _und_, "a" is _een_, i.e. not null, and that for "tenth" is
>_tiende_. I wouldn't bet money on it, but, these spellings are
>probably valid for 1855, too.

Perhaps, if this really was a song of migrant
laborers from Germany, one should look to some
dialect of German or Dutch, or Frisian.

>I won't so much as hazard a guess as to
>what the preceding three lines may be in real Dutch, since they look
>like mere gibberish to me.

It's interesting that the Duyckincks provide an
explanation of the last line, but not the first
three.  Is that a hint that the first three are nonsense lines?

>_Y_ isn't even a letter of the Dutch
>alphabet. But I'm already at the outer limit of my (in)competence in
>assuming that the spelling, _en_, was already used in 1855.

The  "Y"  I assume is a transliteration by the
Duyckincks of the Dutch  "J",  intended for their English-speaking readers.

>The Duyckincks apparently bought it as Dutch
>and _Duyckinck_ is as
>about as Dutch a name as you could ask for.
>OTOH, there are at least
>four towns in France named "Gray," but that doesn't mean that I'm
>competent in French.

Apparently they both were born in New York, but
Wikipedia doesn't tell me what language they spoke at home.

And for a humorous sidelight, George Long
Duyckinck may have been thoroughly American -- he
"was famously credited with inventing the yop - a
refreshing milkshake drink" (Wikipedia).  The OED
does not confirm, and those crediting him
famously seem all to be clones of Wikipedia.


>On Tue, Jan 26, 2010 at 12:47 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:
> > ---------------------- Information from the
> mail header -----------------------
> > Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> > Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> > Subject:      Q:  Translate the "Yanker didel" lyrics?
> >
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > Can someone who is knowledgeable in Dutch translate the following,
> > alleged to be an ancestor of "Yankee Doodle"?  (The earliest such
> > allegation that I have found via Google Books is 1855, in the
> > Duyckincks' _Cyclopaedia_.)  I am also interested if these lyrics or
> > similar could have been used circa 1600-1650.
> >
> > Yanker didel, doodel down
> > Didel, dudel lanter,
> > Yanke viver, voover vown,
> > Botermilk und Tanther.
> >
> > The Duyckincks say "in use among the laborers, who in the time of
> > harvest migrate from Germany to the Low Countries, where they receive
> > for their work as much buttermilk as they can drink and a tenth of
> > the grain secured by their exertions."  They say the last line is
> > "buttermilk and a tenth".
> >
> > And "This song our informant has heard repeated by a native of that
> > country, who had often listened to it at harvest time in his
> > youth."  If so, the words would at least have
> been understandable circa 1800.
> >
> > Joel
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> >
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>­Mark Twain
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