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Author Topic: Words that only appear once in Blues lyrics  (Read 2740 times)

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Online Johnm

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Words that only appear once in Blues lyrics
« on: June 09, 2016, 07:24:24 PM »
Hi all,
Every once in a while, you'll hear someone use a word in a blues lyric and you'll think, "Wow, I've never heard anyone sing that word in a blues before!".  I got to thinking that it might be fun to collect a few words that we suspect were only sung once in recorded blues, and list them in this thread, along with the musicians who sang them and the songs in which they appeared.  Just to get the ball rolling, here are a couple of examples:
   * "doleful"--In "Sundown Blues", Alec Johnson sang:
   When shadows spread that dreary hue around
   From afar I hear a doleful sound
   My soul just weeps when the evening sun goes down
I first remarked on that lyric close to fifty years ago, and I've never heard any other blues singer use the word "doleful" in a lyric in all that time.
   *  "chifferobe"--A chifferobe is a sort of free-standing closet or dresser,  Characteristically, one side has space for hanging clothes and the other side has drawers, and you open up facing doors to get to the two sides.  Last week, in the "What is this musician doing?" thread, I noticed Brownsville Son Bonds singing in the last verse of "80 Highway Blues":
   Yes, and if you get in trouble, call down to Clubhouse 45
   Yes, if you get in trouble, call down to Clubhouse 45
   Baby, and now you just open up my chifferobe, and you'll see where my dollar lies
Evidently, Son Bonds kept his money in his chifferobe.  NOTE:  "Chifferobe" does not qualify as a word used only once in blues lyrics, since Charley Jordan used the word four years prior to Brownsville Son Bonds, in his "Chifferobe", as per Al Young's comment below in the thread.
   * "shan't"--I remember banjochris commenting on Ishmon Bracey's use of the word "shan't" in the mis-titled "Four Day Blues":
   Worried now, mama, and I can't be worried long
   Worried now, mama, and I shan't be worried long
   Mama, 'fore I'd be treated, be on the county farm

Can any of you folks think of other words you've only heard used once in blues lyrics?

All best,
Johnm 
« Last Edit: June 10, 2016, 08:08:49 AM by Johnm »

Offline harry

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Re: Words that only appear once in Blues lyrics
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2016, 01:18:00 AM »
A lot of strange words in Sylvester Weaver songs. Tapeworm, Pitchfork, Nitroglycerine, Polecat.


Offline Forgetful Jones

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Re: Words that only appear once in Blues lyrics
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2016, 05:04:28 AM »

"Consulate" my mind ???

Offline alyoung

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Re: Words that only appear once in Blues lyrics
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2016, 06:17:40 AM »
Sorry, but "chifferobe" doesn't pass the one-off test -- see also Charley Jordan's "Chifferobe". Recorded March 29, 1937 (more than three years before Son Bonds' chifferobe) and issued as by Uncle Skipper.

Online Johnm

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Re: Words that only appear once in Blues lyrics
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2016, 08:05:09 AM »
Thanks for the catch, Al!  It shows that this is a good place to be doing this.  If a proposed word appeared someplace else in blues lyrics, there's a good chance that somebody around here will know it, and can say where else the word appeared.  I'll amend my original post to indicate that "chifferobe" does not qualify.  Thanks!
All best,
Johnm

Offline banjochris

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Re: Words that only appear once in Blues lyrics
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2016, 08:54:39 AM »
How about that mystery word "follybug" or whatever it was in the last verse of Lemon's "Black Snake Moan No. 2"?

Offline lindy

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Re: Words that only appear once in Blues lyrics
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2016, 10:00:28 AM »
It shows that this is a good place to be doing this.  If a proposed word appeared someplace else in blues lyrics, there's a good chance that somebody around here will know it, and can say where else the word appeared.

If you think of a word and want to confirm that it only shows up one time, Weeniepedia has a good search function for the lyrics page.

I just used it to see if "stroller" (used to describe one's main squeeze) shows up in any other song besides Mean Conductor Blues.

It does--in Mamlish Blues, also by Ed Bell. No other hits for the term.

Of course, "mamlish" is in a class all by itself.

("My stroller caught the passenger, I caught the mamlish blind"; I can picture some poor student trying to learn English asking a teacher what that sentence means.)

Lindy
« Last Edit: June 10, 2016, 10:26:18 AM by lindy »

Offline Rivers

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Re: Words that only appear once in Blues lyrics
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2016, 05:13:29 PM »
'Temporary', so far as I can recall, only appears in Mance's cover of 'It's a Long Way To Tipperary'. Probably misheard, accidentally profound:

'It's a long way to temporary, the sweetest place I know'

Usual caveat, there are probably other uses of it but I can't think of any.

Offline Chezztone

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Re: Words that only appear once in Blues lyrics
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2016, 12:27:44 PM »
How about Tommy Johnson using "acknowledge" in the final line of "Lonesome Home Blues":
    I'm going to acknowledge, pretty baby, that I treat you mean.
Robert Johnson lyrics would be a good place to mine for one-off words. Steve LaVere remarked that Johnson must have spent a lot of his childhood with grandparents; he used a lot of archaic terms in his songs (such as "consolate," which Jones noted above but spelled like a different word).

Offline Forgetful Jones

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Re: Words that only appear once in Blues lyrics
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2016, 12:43:11 PM »

Offline waxwing

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Re: Words that only appear once in Blues lyrics
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2016, 01:39:09 PM »
Anyone know another use of "hammock" in any song besides the mistitled "Hammer Blues" by Patton.

And whether you believe he sings "bastard" or "dastard", Charley's use in Down the Dirt Road Blues might be unique.

Of course, this brings up Michael Taft's Concordance of Blues Lyrics, which is unfortunately not very comprehensive, but could rule out some words if he has two instances. He has tons of words which, at least in the songs he has included, only have one instance, including "hammock". You can find a link under the Links section of Weeniepedia, but the site is not very intuitive, nor easy to navigate once you figure it out.

Wax
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Offline banjochris

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Re: Words that only appear once in Blues lyrics
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2016, 01:40:53 PM »
Acknowledge pops up in a lot of blues lyrics, mostly as "acknowledge I've done wrong" or the like. We had a discussion about it a few years ago that got a bit heated! Sleepy John, for instance, sings it in Mary, Come On Home.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Words that only appear once in Blues lyrics
« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2016, 01:46:06 PM »
How 'bout Lemon's use of "commentating" in "Dry Southern Blues"?

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
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Online Johnm

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Re: Words that only appear once in Blues lyrics
« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2016, 03:54:42 PM »
Hi all,
Peg Leg Howell used "acknowledge" in "Please, Ma'am".  Barbecue Bob used polecat in "Black Skunk Blues".
All best,
Johnm

Offline banjochris

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Re: Words that only appear once in Blues lyrics
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2016, 06:10:07 PM »
How 'bout Lemon's use of "commentating" in "Dry Southern Blues"?

Wax

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