[Ads-l] "Dixon's land" & "Dixey's line"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jun 30 11:29:22 UTC 2020

Any ref. to "Dixie" after 1860 is likely to be influenced by the name of
the song.

What does the 1835 "south of Mason and Dixon's land" refer to? Latin
America?  Virginia (immediately south of Maryland?  Neither seems likely.
Does the phrase appear elsewhere before "Dixie"?  My guess is that "land"
is just a slip for "line." Is there reason to think otherwise?

The sudden explosion of "Dixie" references (and dearth of "Dixie's [sic]
lands") after the song suggests that both were novelties.  In the lyrics,
"Dixie land" is clearly more euphonious than "Dixie's land."

Whatever the psychology behind Emmett's choice of these words (and Dixon's
Line and Dixey's land were probably in his mind) decades of research - most
recently including vast newspaper databases - fails to turn up any
pre-Emmett proof, or even strong evidence, that anyone referred to the
South as "Dixie" before Daniel Emmett.

Or has it?

PS: Absence of evidence, after a meticulous search, is strong evidence of
absence - though not proof beyond doubt.


On Tue, Jun 30, 2020 at 5:46 AM Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote:

> Given apparently myriad mentions of Mason and Dixon's Line, I suppose it
> was well known enough to have influenced Dixie's Line and Dixie's Land.
> Here's an instance (admittedly after D. D. Emmett's songs) from
> New-Hampshire Statesman (Concord) Fri. April 24, 1863, p. 1. col. 3 [19th
> c. USNews], with the article title "Artemis Ward Crossing Dixie's Line":
> "....suffysit it to say I got across Mason and Dixie's line safe at larst."
> For a different opinion, David L. Gold, in an excerpt from "....Appendix
> 3: On the Origins of Dixie and Jazz" [italics omitted], p. 155 in Studies
> in Etymology and Etiology...(Universidad de Alicante, 2009):
> "Lighter et al. 1994:609 give a good summary of the etymological problem
> which Dixie poses. They say, inter alia, "Of the various proposed
> etymologies, that sugg. by Hotze in the 1861 quot. below [[[i.e., in
> HDAS]]] is perh. to be favored on phonological as well as historical
> grounds." Hotze proposed that Dixie comes from Mason and Dixon's Line. That
> suggestion is not immediately convincing: although the name of a border can
> come to designate what the border delimits, Mason and Dixon's Line may have
> been too little known to the average person to give rise to a word as
> informal as Dixie."
> Stephen Goranson
> ________________________________
> From: Stephen Goranson
> Sent: Monday, June 29, 2020 5:38 AM
> Subject: "Dixon's land" & "Dixey's line"
> About the proposed move from “Dixon’s Line” to “Dixie’s Land,” two related
> collocations may be of interest.
> “Dixon’s land” appears in June 15, 1835 (Monday) Evening Star [New York,
> NY] p.2, col. 2 [AmHistN]  :
> Query—What would be the punishment of a negro flogging an alderman, south
> of Mason and Dixon’s land?
> And “Dixon’s land” also appears in many July, 1861 accounts about
> politician John Bell of Tennessee.
> “Dixey’s line” appears in the Feb. 10, 1861 Sunday Dispatch
> [Philadelphia], p.1 col.7 [AmHistN]:
> …for two months, there hasn’t been a paragraph in any paper north or south
> of Mason & Dixon’s line, or on Dixon’s, or Dixey’s line itself that hasn’t
> been as reeking with blood ….
> Stephen Goranson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list