The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #49738   Message #4171692
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
06-May-23 - 09:48 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Blow the Man Down
Subject: RE: Origins: Blow the Man Down
I've run across many references to "roll a man down" (presumably a lyrical variation for "blow the man down"), as in your Oct. 2022 post. Haven't sorted out which are more original and which might be derivative.

"Knock a man down," for comparison, IIRC appears in three sources I'd consider original whereas quotes from either RC Adams or Stephen Luce (who borrowed Adams' work) appear to be the source of additional references. Possibly, "roll a man down" is a more frequently referenced variation.

Anyway, I curious what your interpretation of "roll a man down" might be, in a more literal (as opposed to poetic) meaning. Any insight about this phrase as slang of the time?

I've certainly been inclined to conjecture that "knock a man down" precedes "blow the man", and I'm trying to think how "roll" might fit into that idea. On one hand, we might suppose "blow" was a synonym/substitute for "knock." On the other, "blow" might be a transformation of "roll" because the words *sound* similar. I think "roll" and "blow" were also exchanged in the choral phrases "blow, boys, blow" / "roll, boys, roll".

"Blow the Man Down" is an odd duck. While recognizable as a chanty, the variations of melody that tend to be associated with it are less like the majority of other chanty melodies. (That's one reason, in fact, why I'm inclined to speculate that "Knock a Man" is earlier: I interpret its melody as more consistent with other repertoire.) Somehow, I suspect, "Blow the Man Down" rose above other repertoire in fame and, maybe, got transformed in style to the taste of a different demographic of singers.