The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #54922   Message #852385
Posted By: Stewie
22-Dec-02 - 09:42 PM
Thread Name: Origins: 'Dony' / Doney
Subject: RE: Origin of 'Dony'

The following is a note by Stephen Calt in an article on 'The Idioms of Robert Johnson'. I photocopied the article from '78 Quarterly' magazine but, stupidly, omitted to record the edition.

'I don't want no woman, wants any downtown man she meet
She's a no-good donay, they shouldn't allow her on the street'
[I Believe I'll Dust My Broom 1936]

A black and Southern white variant of 'dona', a 19th century slang term associated with cockney and British circus slang and regarded as vulgar by Farmer & Henley, though it derives from respectful Italian, Spanish or Portuguese terms for 'lady'. (The standard English words 'dame' and 'prima donna' both derive from the same source). Although idiomatic, it is likely that the term was more common in song rhetoric than 20th century American colloquial speech. In southern white song, it occursas early as 1910, when 'Doney Gal' was collected by John Lomax. It also occurred in a slave song, 'Off From Richmond', cited by Talley in 1922:

I slips off from Mosser without pass an' warnin'
For I mus' see my Donie wherever she may stay

Although Son House defined 'donie' as 'a no-good woman', it had no pejorative implication.
[Stephen Calt 'The Idioms of Robert Johnson' in '78 Quarterly' #?]

I recall seeing a note, I think by Joe Hickerson, that the lady Lomax collected 'Doney Gal' from told him that her uncle, the original source of the song, called his mule 'His Doney Gal', his sweetheart. So in some parts at least the word had taken on a softer tone.