The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #122362   Message #2683484
Posted By: Q (Frank Staplin)
19-Jul-09 - 05:02 PM
Thread Name: Ship Margaret Evans, songs
Subject: RE: Ship Margaret Evans, songs
Odum- a short extract from the above- "...the songs with the accompanying music have become the property of the negroes, in their present rendition, regardless of their sources or usage elsewhere."
Odum was writing of his collections c. 1900.

"Clear the Track" clearly belongs to the music hall-minstrel period of the 1840s, as does the word bullgine. Although using black stereotypes as a basis for their humor, the performers of that time were white, mostly American but many from England, and some from Australia. Their inspiration came largely from the news or topics of the day. The stereotypes often served to defuse adverse reaction to their message, which often was sharp needling of the politicians and events of the day.

Bullgine has been in use over a long period- not only by railroaders and sailors. By railroaders in 1849 "Cars ran off the track- smashed the bulgine"; 1855 "Look out for the Bulgine!"; 1877 Bartlett "A cant word for a locomotive engine"; 1889 Dict. Slang "(nautical) a locomotive is so-called by sailors"; 1899 Hamlin Garland "That's the bull-gine on the Great Western"; 1911 Damon Runyon "You hear the gang when the hammers clang and the bulgines hoist away!"; 1939 Dictionary of Americanisms "His bulgine was new and shiny an' there it was with tomater ketchup all over the boiler an' the cab"; etc. (citations fuller in Lighter, Hist. Dict. American Slang).
James Joyce used the word in his classic, "Ulysses." "...ran up the jolly roger, gave three times three, let the bullgine run, pushed off in their bumboat and put to sea to recover the main of America. Which was the occasion, says Mr Vincent, of the composing by a boatswain of that rollicking chanty:
Pope Peter's but a pissabed
A man's a man for a' that."
(Now that's one to collect!)