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So I asked him to play "Trav'lin' All Alone." That came closer than anything to the way I felt. And some part of it must have come across. The whole joint quieted down. If someone had dropped a pin, it would have sounded like a bomb. When I finished, everybody in the joint was crying in their beer, and I picked thirty-eight bucks up off the floor - Billie Holiday, 1915-1959

Author Topic: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?  (Read 39391 times)

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Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #30 on: May 13, 2012, 10:12:20 AM »
Quote
Shovel,Have you ever heard the song sung as it was originally performed?  You are absolutely on the wrong track.  The idea of Libba Cotten backing her granddaughter, still a child, singing a song based on sexual innuendo is dead wrong.  That's not the kind of thing Libba Cotten would have found cute or amusing.   Sugaree has nothing to do with stingeree in "Shake, Sugaree".


I agree completely John. That's not the kind of "term of endearment" I had in mind at all. If anything it is redolent of an old couple tenderly reminiscing about old, hard, but still treasured times.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #31 on: May 13, 2012, 10:21:58 AM »
Quote
Might there be another member of the Seeger clan who would also know the answer if Libba's grandchildren were hard to find?


I just dropped a line to my new facebook friend Peggy Seeger, whom i don't know personally, asking her if she knows the origin of the term. No answer so far. Maybe its obvious to every one but us? :P
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline eric

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #32 on: May 13, 2012, 11:14:23 AM »
I'm a bit late to this discussion, but maybe I can contribute some disconnected, pertinent/impertinent observations:

Somewhere. I once read a discussion about the word sugaree that related it to a supposed African or Gullah word "shivaree" meaning some sort of party.  I have no idea if this rubbish or not.

I was lucky enough to meet Elizabeth Cotten through Mike Seeger when he had some sort of visiting professorship at Fresno State.  She had a profound   dignity about her.

Paraphrasing David Holt, the old time players are a kind of wise man (or woman) and these tunes are bits of wisdom being passed down to us.  I like to think of them that way.

Finally:  "Wagner's music is better than it sounds"  - Mark Twain

--
Eric

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #33 on: May 13, 2012, 12:11:06 PM »
Unless there's another meaning I'm not familiar with, "shivaree" comes from the French "charivari," not Gulla. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charivari for corroboration on that point. We had shivarees out in the country in Minnesota when I was a kid -- all the neighbors would assemble in front of a newlywed's house at about 10:00 at night, and all of us would yell, bang on plow coulters and other noisemakers, and in general create a disturbance until the couple appeared at the door to acknowledge our presence. I believed at the time that it was a common occurrence among country folk, although I've never asked other farm-raised people about it.

Yes, Eric, "bits of wisdom being passed down to us" is a good description of what is best of tradition, whether it's by song or story. Alas, the songs of today are inane, and nobody I know tells stories any more. For an example of the story-telling tradition in my family, my older brother, Mike, tells a dog story at (filmed by my oldest son).

Lyle

Lyle

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #34 on: May 13, 2012, 04:13:09 PM »
But can anybody tell me what diddy wah diddy means?
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Johnm

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #35 on: May 13, 2012, 04:33:58 PM »
Seriously, since when do kids' songs have to mean anything or make sense?  If songs have to make sense at some level, a good portion of the Old Time repertoire is going to require some serious ongoing parsing.  Or as old Jimmy Sutton would say, "Sheep, sheep, bah-bah".
All best,
Johnm

Offline eric

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #36 on: May 13, 2012, 05:01:59 PM »
Lyle,

That's a great story.  I wish I had videos of my grandfather's stories.  I was told that some of them were actually true...
--
Eric

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #37 on: May 13, 2012, 05:14:07 PM »
Johnm: You're absolutely right, kid's songs don't have to make any sense, but if it's a word that does have meaning in the community, I want to know what it means. After all, look at the folklorists who've written books about the meaning of kid's songs and singing games (including the macabre "ashes, ashes, we all fall down"). Several years ago, I wrote down a quote that's apropos here (including the source -- I get irritated with unattributable quotes):

Nonsense is nonsense. But the history of nonsense is scholarship.
  Saul Lieberman to an audience at Jewish Theological Seminary, introducing a lecture on the Kabbalah by Gerhard Scholem, sometime in the 1940s. Quoted by Cynthia Ozick, "The Heretic," New Yorker, 9/2/2002, p. 145.

Lyle

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #38 on: May 13, 2012, 05:41:10 PM »
Johnm: You're absolutely right, kid's songs don't have to make any sense, but if it's a word that does have meaning in the community, I want to know what it means. After all, look at the folklorists who've written books about the meaning of kid's songs and singing games (including the macabre "ashes, ashes, we all fall down"). Several years ago, I wrote down a quote that's apropos here (including the source -- I get irritated with unattributable quotes):

Nonsense is nonsense. But the history of nonsense is scholarship.
  Saul Lieberman to an audience at Jewish Theological Seminary, introducing a lecture on the Kabbalah by Gerhard Scholem, sometime in the 1940s. Quoted by Cynthia Ozick, "The Heretic," New Yorker, 9/2/2002, p. 145.

Lyle


I love that quote!
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Johnm

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #39 on: May 13, 2012, 06:00:50 PM »
Yes, that is a great quote, Lyle.  Thanks!
All best,
Johnm

Offline Stuart

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #40 on: May 13, 2012, 11:38:55 PM »
According to the liner notes (http://media.smithsonianfolkways.org/liner_notes/smithsonian_folkways/SFW40147.pdf), "Shake Sugaree" came together in the early sixties. Prior to that, the Marty Robbins' song, "Sugaree," had been recorded three different times, the first time by the Jordanaires in 1957. If it received airplay or if the record was played at home, the children could have picked it up (it's catchy) and worked it into the song. Here are the Jordanaires on Youtube singing "Sugaree":



Obviously, in this context, it's a female name--either a proper name, nickname, pet name, or name of endearment (maybe all of the above).

Offline Shovel

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #41 on: May 17, 2012, 03:29:10 AM »
Shovel,
Have you ever heard the song sung as it was originally performed?  You are absolutely on the wrong track.  The idea of Libba Cotten backing her granddaughter, still a child, singing a song based on sexual innuendo is dead wrong.  That's not the kind of thing Libba Cotten would have found cute or amusing.   Sugaree has nothing to do with stingeree in "Shake, Sugaree".

Thanks for that John.

I guess I somehow thought the discussion was also  about the possible origin of the word, not just its use in this specific song?   

If that is in fact the case, I've encountered words here and there, even in black music , whose meanings changed according to context.  I've also seen evidence that the meanings of words can evolve over time. 

Stingaree
Sugaree

It's very possible those words are completely unrelated.   But I don't think it's impossible to imagine a person back in the 20s or earlier, in the midst of songs about stinging bees and stingarees, to say baby, when you had enough of that old stingaree down there, come check out my sugaree!  I wouldn't bet money on such things, but it wouldn't be surprising at all.

Then sometime between the 20s and the 60s, the term evolves into a general term of endearment whose relation to the word stingaree is kind of irrelevant because nobody's singing about Bumble Bees anymore.

I'll jump wholeheartedly on the bandwagon that doesn't think she was singing to her kids about that other thing.  Actually I'm kind of shocked that there exists such a bandwagon in response to my bandwagon.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2012, 03:36:52 AM by Shovel »

Offline Stuart

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #42 on: May 17, 2012, 08:12:25 AM »
I couldn't find any solid information on the origin or etymology of the word "Sugaree" in the context of this song. Most of the information is in the form of "I read somewhere" or "someone said" or "it sounds like," which doesn't inspire a whole lot of confidence, especially to someone who has done a little work in the historical development of language and writing systems.

One of the problems is that language is spoken and a very, very small percentage of what is spoken is recorded in writing, and even less in sound recordings. Unless there is some hard evidence that indicates exactly--or even approximately-- where in the line of transmission the change from say, "stingaree" to "Sugaree" occurred, we're SOL. Still, it's fun to guess and speculate, but I wouldn't bet the family jewels on any guesses that are impressionistic and not analytic, and not supported by solid evidence.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2012, 08:34:13 AM by Stuart »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #43 on: May 17, 2012, 08:51:32 AM »
If the basis for assuming sugaree is related to stingeree is purely morphological, i.e., both words end in "eree", then one might expect a similar relationship between "filigree" and pedigree".  There is none.  The fact that two words sound alike is not evidence for their having similar or shared meanings.

Offline Stuart

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #44 on: May 17, 2012, 09:30:59 AM »
How 'bout possum and blossom, John?  "When the possums are in the blossoms..." :P

Sometimes mispronunciation and/or mishearing can yield a "new" word. In the "someone wrote" category, I ran across a post that said that supposedly stingaree came from stingray and was then used to refer to skates in the Chesapeake Bay area. Well, maybe as it makes sense, but no solid evidence was given.

Some of the discussions I read while I was looking around reminded me of the old saying, "It isn't what people don't know that gets them in the most trouble, it's what they know with absolute certainty that just isn't true." From Samuel Johnson, perhaps? 
« Last Edit: May 17, 2012, 09:36:13 AM by Stuart »

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