July 4, 2022

A Bit of Independence Day Trivia

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his cap
And called it macaroni.


Yankee Doodle keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy. 

There are a number of versions of the Yankee Doodle song, but that was the one I learned as a kid. However, it never made a lot of sense to me; why the heck would he call it "macaroni?" Recently, the historical novel I'm reading shed some light on the term. 

The clock in the hall struck four and Sam grimaced. "I have to go, ma'am. He wants me macaronied."
"Macaronied?" Martha asked.
"All prinked up, ma'am. I have to serve a supper party."

Bernard Cornwell, Redcoat

 Dan got out our Webster's 1828 dictionary and looked it up.

~ a sort of droll or fool, and hence, a fop; a fribble; a finical fellow
~ pertaining to or like a macaroni; empty, trifling; vain; affected

We also looked up:

~ trifler, simpleton, fool

~ a man of the human species who dresses himself like a doll

Makes one wonder why Yankee Doodle is considered a patriotic song. Well, originally it wasn't. It came from an old European ditty and was sung by British soldiers to mock the Patriots. But it backfired because the Americans were apparently too naive to know they were supposed to be offended and they adopted it as their own. Now, it's a song that never fails to conjure up images of fife, drum, and rag-tag rebel Americans who (at that time, anyway) didn't want a non-American power controlling their economy, nor a birthright aristocracy defining their culture. 

Fun trivia aside, I think the real takeaway ought to be that the two sides eventually reached an agreement and came to respect one another as world partners and allies. That was the choice both sides made. They could have continued to nurse their wrongs, demand payback, and keep up the feud. But they chose to let it go, put it behind them, and move on. It's a lesson from history we should take to heart today.


Cederq said...

You are a font of facts and trivia! I wasn't aware of the definitions back then of the words in that song, very clever

daisy g said...

Wow! I had no clue! Thanks for your research. Our family tradition on Independence Day is to watch "Yankee Doodle Dandy" together. Can't wait! Enjoy your holiday!

Leigh said...

Kevin, tidbits like that are why I enjoy historical fiction. Not all historical fiction is well researched, but when it is, I usually always learn something!

Daisy, I had no idea either. It was a very fun discovery. :)

kathyinozarks said...

great post-loved this history "lesson" I never did understand this song-now I do-Happy 4th

Leigh said...

Kathy, I find it so interesting to trace common sayings and terms. They often have fascinating histories!

Jenn Jilks said...

Well I'd never wondered about this, I just thought it a nonsense song! Goo research.
(ツ) from Jenn Jilks , ON, Canada!

Dave said...

Ma'am, I grew up in an area of Appalachian Pennsylvania. Sort of the backwoods during colonial times, and the history was palpable. We always took the song a kind of a colonial "how do you like me now"?

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Thanks for the trivia hunt Leigh! I knew a bit of the history but not all of it!

The "learning to live together aspect" is one many could benefit from.

Leigh said...

Jenn, it certainly seems like a nonsense song. :) Which is what makes the revelation of the historical word meanings so interesting.

Dave, exactly so. And I think another lesson we can learn from this is in how we react to people's "insults."

TB, I agree, but I don't think it's socially fashionable nowadays. "Us against them" seems to be the favorite game at the moment.

wyomingheart said...

Thanks Leigh… great historical info for today! Happy 4th!

Rain said...

That was some great trivia! I knew none of that! I just think of James Cagney whenever I hear Yankee Doodle Dandy! ☺

Rain said...

Btw...James Cagney (swoon) was also a farmer! Actor, dancer, singer, farmer....you dirty rat...lol what's not to like? ☺☺☺

Leigh said...

Wyomingheart, the same to you all!

Leigh said...

Rain, I didn't know James Cagney was a farmer! That's a very nice bit of trivia. It's been forever since I've seen that film and you're the second person to mention it! I need to check it out from the library.

Fundy Blue said...

Fun post, Leigh, with lots of interesting trivia!

Ed said...

I guess I've known awhile that the song came from the British mocking us but I never knew the origins of macaroni nor thought about it. Thanks for the history lesson!

Leigh said...

Thanks Fundy!

Ed, I always appreciate an author who does their homework. It makes reading so much more interesting. Bernard Cornwell is good at that, and I always enjoy his historical notes section at the end of his books. Somehow, I find it easier to remember events if they're tied to an interesting story line.