Q: Translate the "Yanker didel" lyrics?

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 27 22:48:25 UTC 2010

George writes:

"The brother also travelled in Europe."

He was a member of the Communipaw community, I assume. An impressive
feat, considering the times.

and quotes:

"... buttermilk, -- a delicacy of which you know I am not particularly fond."

I heard that! Despite the fact that I grew up among parents,
grandparents, cousins, et al. who likewise valued this maggot-gagging
substance highly as a refreshingly-delicious adjunct of breakfast,
"dinner," and "supper," I have never cared for it. Normally, I really
like the Dutch. But if it was they who turned on the bruz 'n' cuz to
buttermilk... I don't know. Maybe it's time for an "agonizing
re-appraisal," to coin a phrase. "But first, I'm going to get a little
high," to coin another phrase.

A contemporary of mine - Bill Cosby? Flip Wilson? Richard Pryor? -
noted that it's not only the taste, but also the way that a glass that
has once held buttermilk looks. (This is a you-had-to-have-been-there
thing, so I can't describe this phenomenon for those unfamiliar with


"The experiment was a venturesome one, too much so indeed to be
hazarded by most [white] men, for it is not every one who can catch
the spirit of the negro's manner, and pourtray [sic] with fidelity, a
character varied and piquant."

Sadly, still true, after all these years.


On Wed, Jan 27, 2010 at 11:52 AM, George Thompson
<george.thompson at nyu.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Q: Translate the "Yanker didel" lyrics?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Can this be a dialect of Dutch spoken in the U. S.?   We all remember that NYC was at first a Dutch outpost, and Dutch was spoken in NYS or at least used in church services until the late 18th C; there was a community in New Jersey, Communipaw, now part of Jersey City, I believe, where Dutch was spoken into the early 19th C.; my impression is that Communipaw was largely a black community.
> As for the Duyckincks.  It certainly seems that their first language would have been English.  A full length bio might indicate whether they would have spoken Dutch with Granny.  The American National Bio says "In 1838 and 1839, after writing articles for several magazines, he [evert] visited the British Isles, France, and the Netherlands, with plenty of family funds to make the experience memorable."  The brother also travelled in Europe.
> Samuel Osgood, Evert Augustus Duyckinck, His Life, Writings, and Influence (1879).  Also a 1954 diss, done at NYU.
> ***
> First to the Battery-walk he takes his way,
> There gapes a while at father Hudson’s waves,
> Peeps at Communipaw, beyond the bay,
> Where many a Dutchman many a penny saves.
>        Daily Advertiser, April 27, 1791, p. 2, col. 1
>        . . . yesterday I went to Communipaw and in the evening to the opera.  Communipaw as you may perhaps know is the oldest settlement in these parts except New York.  It lies southwest of Paulus Hook and consists of about half a dozen low stone Dutch houses ranged along the shore, the inmates of which talk Dutch yet.  We went into one of the houses, a girl had just finished churning.  She gave the party some buttermilk, -- a delicacy of which you know I am not particularly fond.  We saw nothing else except a young negro about two years old in "mudder's nakedness," as the Irish say.
>        William Cullen Bryant, The Letters of William Cullen Bryant, W. C. Bryant II and T. G. Voss, eds.,  vol. 1, p. 206, letter to his wife of July 29, 1826.
>        The Masquerade. -- We beg pardon of our fashionable readers, for not having sooner noticed the masquerade which occurred some evening ago, in one of our fashionable circles.  ***  But the most interesting couple of the motley group, consisted of an African gentleman and lady, (we like to follow suit in these days of refinement.)  Nature was copied to the life, and the negro dialect flowed as flippantly from the lips of the two gentlemen, who sustained the parts, as if they had been born and bred at Communipaw.  The experiment was a venturesome one, too much so indeed to be hazarded by most men, for it is not every one who can catch the spirit of the negro's manner, and pourtray [sic] with fidelity, a character varied and piquant.  In this instance it was done with complete success, if one might judge by the excessive laughter of the company.  Had the illustrious Mr. Rice been present, he undoubtedly would have been compelled to acknowledge himself conquered.  ***
>        Evening Star, February 10, 1835, p. 2, col. 2
>        [a newspaper editor complaining about his sorrowful life:] To keep the dates of the latest news from Europe, Asia, and Africa in one's head, is no small job, but the translation of news from France, Cuba, Vera Cruz, Rio Janeiro, Monte Video, Buenos Ayres, Lisbon, Smyrna, the islands of the Archipelago at times, Hamburgh, Florence or Milan, in Portuguese, Spanish, German, and Italian, as well as French, is no easy work, all of which we have at times to do, and do do, except when an Amsterdam paper comes along in Dutch (when we always give up, unless we can send an express for a translator over to Communipaw.)
>        New York Daily Express, July 19, 1839, p. 2, cols. 1-2
> George A. Thompson
> Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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