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Nov 30, 2020 - 6:14:40 AM
60 posts since 11/28/2015

I really like the Red Clay Ramblers' version of Cotton Eyed Joe, but I'm unclear about the meaning of "fiddle and "bow."

Way down yonder, a long time ago
   Daddy had a man called Cotton Eyed Joe.
Flew into town with a traveling show,
   nobody danced like Cotton Eyed Joe.
Daddy held the fiddle, I held the bow,
   we beat the hell out of Cotton Eyed Joe.

Any idea if fiddle and bow might refer to some kinds of farm implements or something else that might be used for a beating? Bow = whip? Using a banjo to deliver a beating, now that makes sense, but a fiddle and bow? Or am I mssing some other explanation?

Nov 30, 2020 - 7:08:19 AM
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RioStat

USA

5382 posts since 10/12/2009
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They're just lyrics to what is, basically, a "novelty" song....written to rhyme, not to be taken literally.

Another anomaly in that verse......I don't believe that "a long time ago", anybody "flew" into town !

Edited by - RioStat on 11/30/2020 07:11:45

Nov 30, 2020 - 2:46:03 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

24250 posts since 6/25/2005

Further, lyrics for tunes of this type change, conflate, are misunderstood, etc. all the time.

Nov 30, 2020 - 5:02:37 PM
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4911 posts since 5/14/2007

And it could be an accurate description of a father and child playing with a fiddle, "Cotton-eyed Joe" now meaning the tune rather than the person.

"Flew," meaning to move fast, predates aviation. 

Sometimes it's pretty easy to overthink this stuff.

I like their version, too, but there are some rather dark and mysterious suggestions in the lyrics. 

Edited by - John Gribble on 11/30/2020 17:05:12

Nov 30, 2020 - 9:09:45 PM
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60 posts since 11/28/2015

Right. I just didn't see the old woman in the rabbit. Thanks.

Dec 1, 2020 - 3:11:50 AM

157 posts since 9/14/2019

quote:
Originally posted by RioStat

They're just lyrics to what is, basically, a "novelty" song....written to rhyme, not to be taken literally.

Another anomaly in that verse......I don't believe that "a long time ago", anybody "flew" into town !


In the south we still use the words "fly, flying, flew, etc." to mean moving fast, not necessarily flying in the sky.

Dec 1, 2020 - 3:16:01 AM

399 posts since 9/6/2019

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Dec 1, 2020 - 3:49:26 AM

56505 posts since 12/14/2005

Perhaps the father-and-son team played music too fast for Mr. Cottoneye to dance to, and they defeated him in some sort of musical contest.

Or. perhaps the lyrics are meaningless chatter, just something to accompany the tune, much like the Burl Ives classic "The tailor and the Mouse"

"There was a tailor, had a mouse, hi-diddleum come feed 'em
They lived together in a house, hi-diddleum come feed 'em
Hi-diddleum come tear a tantrum, through the town of Ramsey
Hi-diddleum come over the lea, Hi-diddleum come feed 'em

"Come feed 'em" might really be "Cum fidem:.
Cum Fidem is LATIN for "with faith", and the lea is the meadow.
Absolutely NO IDEA what a high diddleum is, but it's a kids' song, so, probably has nothing to do with anybody diddling anybody else.

Dec 1, 2020 - 5:09:13 AM
Players Union Member

RioStat

USA

5382 posts since 10/12/2009
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by watercarving
quote:
Originally posted by RioStat

They're just lyrics to what is, basically, a "novelty" song....written to rhyme, not to be taken literally.

Another anomaly in that verse......I don't believe that "a long time ago", anybody "flew" into town !


In the south we still use the words "fly, flying, flew, etc." to mean moving fast, not necessarily flying in the sky.


Yes, I use the various tenses of "fly" all the time myself, ( ....fly down to the Circle K and get gas for the lawnmower, etc...)

I was merely pointing out that you shouldn't take the lyrics of a song literally. smiley

Also....I'm surprised that "Cotton-eyed Joe" has survived the highly charged atmosphere in public life, that "requires" us to disavow every word or thought that someone / anyone finds offensive, or disagrees with.

Edited by - RioStat on 12/01/2020 05:13:54

Dec 1, 2020 - 5:40:11 AM

157 posts since 9/14/2019

quote:
Originally posted by RioStat
quote:
Originally posted by watercarving
quote:
Originally posted by RioStat

They're just lyrics to what is, basically, a "novelty" song....written to rhyme, not to be taken literally.

Another anomaly in that verse......I don't believe that "a long time ago", anybody "flew" into town !


In the south we still use the words "fly, flying, flew, etc." to mean moving fast, not necessarily flying in the sky.


Yes, I use the various tenses of "fly" all the time myself, ( ....fly down to the Circle K and get gas for the lawnmower, etc...)

I was merely pointing out that you shouldn't take the lyrics of a song literally. smiley

Also....I'm surprised that "Cotton-eyed Joe" has survived the highly charged atmosphere in public life, that "requires" us to disavow every word or thought that someone / anyone finds offensive, or disagrees with.


I've honestly never thought that the song was meant to be offensive.  I guess I don't even know the words.....Just really know the tune and the chorus.

Dec 1, 2020 - 6:31:22 AM

60 posts since 11/28/2015


In the south we still use the words "fly, flying, flew, etc." to mean moving fast, not necessarily flying in the sky.

Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss

Dec 1, 2020 - 12:11:35 PM

5904 posts since 3/11/2006

Lots of tunes have had the titles and lyrics changed so as not to offend in modern times.

Dec 1, 2020 - 12:24:36 PM

56505 posts since 12/14/2005

"Cotton-eyed" may have been a reference to a defect in the eye.

Dec 2, 2020 - 7:53:46 AM

JLouis Thiry

France

36 posts since 3/7/2006

My two cents : I think that for to make Cotton-eyed Joe alone dance like a devil (from hell) we needed to be at least two -daddy and I- to play one fiddle in a complementary way. Complementary, here is the keyword. In another context it could have been "lock and key" or "anvil and hammer" or also for-non complementary actions "cabbage and goat", "cat and dog"…

In french, we also use the verb "voler" (to fly) for a person going faster than run or jumping more than dance (going so fast or high that the feet don't touch the ground). "voler au secours de quelqu'un" litterally means "fly to someone's rescue".

This is what I love about popular and traditional poetry and songs, the idea behind the word, the story behind the story.

Dec 2, 2020 - 11:14:18 AM

60 posts since 11/28/2015

Nice, Jean Louis. Thanks.

I really like the Cotton Eyed Joe anthology because every version portrays a different Cotton Eyed Joe. Sometimes he's the beloved family...umm...retainer. Sometimes, as in the Red Clay Rambler version, he's a rake, a rounder. The voice of the song sometimes seems to be male, other times female. Sometimes he's a burden..."had to stay home with Cotton Eyed Joe." In versions he's a an attractant "I wanna stay home with Cotton Eyed Joe." Sometimes he's a distant memory. Sometimes he's a contemporary. Very plastic, every version its own story.

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