The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #85953 Message #2989403
Posted By: Kent Davis
18-Sep-10 - 06:02 PM
Thread Name: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
You are right that the word "meaner" can signify "more stingy" rather than "more unkind". In this case, however, I suspect that the word probably has the usual 20th century American meaning.
The Elizabeth Laprelle version I posted on 16 September uses the word "meaner", but it is based on Texas Gladden's version, which she learned from Alfeda Peel, who reportedly learned it from Mrs. Rill Martin. Mrs. Martin's version is the one in the DT (THE DEVIL'S NINE QUESTIONS, at the top of this thread). It does not use the word "meaner", but rather words the eighth question this way: "What is worse than womankind?". The answer the female protaganist gives the Devil is the expected: "The devil's worse than womankind".
P.S. That version lacks the ninth question. Instead of "And who is the weaver's bonny", it has "Say you're the weaver's bonny."
P.S.S. Here is a recording of Texas Gladden singing the song (and a picture of her): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9GVzDrMUj0
Listen to the very end, when she says (if I understand her correctly) "I learned that one from Alfreda". Whether she or Alfreda Peel introduced the word "meaner" to Mrs. Martin's ballad, or whether Mrs. Martin herself sang it both ways, I don't know.