The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #78750   Message #1422347
Posted By: Azizi
27-Feb-05 - 06:17 PM
Thread Name: Acceptable adjectives in folk songs
Subject: RE: Acceptable adjectives in folk songs
Inspired by this thread, I would like to extend this discussion to include examples from my primary area of interest African American children's rhymes {which surely are forms of folk songs!}

Here are the adjectives found in the contemporary [1980s to date] foot stomping chants that I've been collecting from Pittsburgh, PA area. To date, I have also collected examples of these foot stomping chants in Philadelphia; New York City; Athens, Georgia. I have also seen what I believe are examples of these chants in a 1983 book of Afrian American children's rhymes from Houston, Texas {Barbara Michels, Bettye White "Apple On A Stick"}. It's my belief that these foot stomping cheers are probably found throughout urban areas in the United States, and possibly elsewhere.

An analysis of the foot stomping cheers that I collected and read suggests that African American and Puerto Rican elemetary and preschool girls [and others?]use these words to describe themselves:

fine [meaning physically attractive]; {examples I know I'm
      fine/justlike my sign"; also "fine/wine"; "fine/time"
bad [meaning good]
fly [meaning hip; street smart-up to date with the latest fashions,
    physically attractive
rough and tough
cool and the gang
super cool
super star
super super [for example "I'm a super Super Virgo""]*
hot stuff

The text of these synchronized, syncopated street cheers reflect the importance to the girls of being seen as sexy, physically attractive, and tough [meaning: able to defend yourself verbally and probably otherwise..]

Here's two examples of these chants that I collected from my daughter's memories of mid 1980s Pittsburgh,PA

Group                Fly girl one
                Fly girl two.
                Pump it up, Renee
                Just like you do {or "Show me what you do"}
Soloist #1        {"Oh" or "Well"} my name is Renee.
Group                What?
Soloist #1        and I'm a fly girl
Group                What?        
Soloist #1        It takes a lot of men
                to rock my world.
                'Cause I can fly like a butterfly,
                sting like a bee.
                And that's why they call me

Group                Hula Hula
                Who thinks they bad?
Soloist #1         I do.
Group                Hula Hula
                Who thinks they bad?
Soloist #1         I do.
Group                 Ool! You think you bad.
Soloist #1        Correction, Baby, I know I'm bad.
Group                Ool! You think you smart.
Soloist #1        Smart enough to break your heart.
Group                Ooll, you think you tuff?
Soloist#1        Tuff enough to strut my stuff.
                Cause when I twist
               like this
                the boys cannot resist.
                and when I turn
                I burn
               and break down like a worm

In both examples, the cheer is repeated by the next soloist [either exactly the same words or that fit the same pattern]. This continues with the next soloist until every member of this informal group has had one turn as the soloist. IMO, this 'group/consecutive soloists' variant form of call & response is the signature structure of these percussive, dramatized foot stomping chants..

*These chants frequently mention astrological sun signs. Another example of this is:

"My sign is Sag
and that's alright
cause all Sagittarius are
out of sight.