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Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs

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GUEST 25 Sep 00 - 06:28 AM
GUEST,Michael in Swansea 25 Sep 00 - 06:30 AM
Dave (the ancient mariner) 25 Sep 00 - 09:13 AM
sophocleese 25 Sep 00 - 09:26 AM
A Wandering Minstrel 25 Sep 00 - 11:39 AM
MMario 25 Sep 00 - 12:09 PM
Jim Dixon 25 Sep 00 - 01:51 PM
GUEST,Joe 25 Sep 00 - 02:09 PM
paddymac 25 Sep 00 - 02:13 PM
DougR 25 Sep 00 - 02:38 PM
Naemanson 25 Sep 00 - 03:21 PM
Jim Dixon 25 Sep 00 - 03:41 PM
sophocleese 25 Sep 00 - 04:05 PM
radriano 25 Sep 00 - 04:46 PM
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Jim Dixon 25 Sep 00 - 06:15 PM
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Subject: Advice Please?
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Sep 00 - 06:28 AM

There's been a couple of ugly threads recently concerning derogatory terms in songs, well at the risk of incurring the wrath of the Mudcat I'd like to ask your advice about a song that I've sung twice at singarounds, never on stage, not realising that I might be offending someone.
The song is "Lee Fore Brace" and contains the term "Dago" twice. For those who are not familiar with the song the lyrics are below.

LEE FORE BRACE
(Words Cicely Fox-Smith)

There was ten men haulin' on the lee fore brace
In the rain an' the drivin' hail
An' the mile long greybeards chargin' by
An' a thunderin' Cape Horn gale

That dark it was you scarce could see
Your hand before your face
That cold it was our fingers froze
Stiff as they gripped the brace

An' "Christ" said Dan "for a night in port
An' a Dago fiddler's tune
An' just one sniff of the drinks again
In a Callao saloon"

There was ten men haulin' on the lee fore brace
When the big sea broke abroad
Like a stream in spate a foaming flood
Right fore and aft it poured

The ship she staggered and lay still
So deep so dead lay she
You'd think she could not rise again
From such a weight of sea

There was ten men haulin' on the lee fore brace
Seven when she rose at last
The rest was gone to the pitch dark night
An' the sea an' the ice cold blast

An' one o' them was Dago Pete
An' one was Lars the Dane
An' the third was a lad whose like on Earth
I shall not find again

An' I'll heave an' haul an' stand my wheel
An' reef an' furl wi' the rest
For winds an' seas go on the same
When they've took an' drowned the best

An' it ain't no use to curse the Lord
Nor it ain't no sense to moan
For a man must live his life the same
An' keep his grief his own

An' I'll drink my drink an' I'll sing my song
An' nobody'll know but me
A lump o' my heart went down with Dan
That night on the wild Horn sea


So, what do you think? Derogatory or affectionate?
If changes are needed, change to what?

M


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: GUEST,Michael in Swansea
Date: 25 Sep 00 - 06:30 AM

I forgot to put my mane on the above, that's the drawback of having to sign in as a guest. Sorry

Mike.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Dave (the ancient mariner)
Date: 25 Sep 00 - 09:13 AM

In a song they are not intended as d


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: sophocleese
Date: 25 Sep 00 - 09:26 AM

First question is how comfortable are you singing it? If you feel that you're singing an old song and want to keep a semblance of historical accuracy in singing it then there is no need for changes, but you may want to explain things to your audience. I don't think the term Dago is being used as a derogatory epithet in this song, it is an identifying label. I probably wouldn't change anything myself if I sang it.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: A Wandering Minstrel
Date: 25 Sep 00 - 11:39 AM

Dago does have some racial overtones and might be considered offensive by Spanish members of your audience. you could substitute "Spanish" and thereby make the song wholesome without losing context.

I do take exception to your use of fore brace as two words however :-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: MMario
Date: 25 Sep 00 - 12:09 PM

"Dago" is also used as a derogatory term for Italians. However, again, I do not believe it it used in this manner here.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 25 Sep 00 - 01:51 PM

When I first came to St. Paul, Minnesota, some 30 years ago, there was something called a "dago sandwich" which was frequently served in old-fashioned cafés. It was a slice of meatloaf topped with red spaghetti sauce on a bun or white bread. The name, the sandwich, and that type of café have all disappeared now, as far as I know.

Certainly "dago" wasn't ALWAYS meant to be derogatory, but it often was, often enough that I think it's a good idea to put the word into permanent retirement.

If I were publishing a book of old songs, along with citations to the original source, I would print the word "dago" but I would add a footnote: "Substitute 'Spanish' [or whatever] in performance."

People who perform in public for purely entertainment purposes are under no obligation to be "historically authentic." In fact, I would argue we have a higher obligation to make our performances conform to contemporary standards.

It might be different if you were working at a historic site and performing a historic reenactment, and you were attempting to teach a lesson about history. In such a situation I would consult with the director of the site and follow his or her advice.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: GUEST,Joe
Date: 25 Sep 00 - 02:09 PM

Dago is an Italian, Yank is an American, Mick is an Irishman. Not bad, just knicknames. Wop is not a nice term for Italians. We have an area in St. Louis known to one and all as 'Dago Hill' where all the great Italian resturants are. We all love the area and the name. regards Joe


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: paddymac
Date: 25 Sep 00 - 02:13 PM

I think that brother Jim has offered some sage advice. I grew up on the west side of Chicago with many Italian pals. The familiar or affectionate synonym for "Italian" was "Paisan or Paisano". In Italian, I think the word actually means something like "rustic" or "country person". "Dago" was considered to be pejorative. People of Italian ancestry might call each other "Dago", much that same way that blacks often refer to each other as "nigger", or that irishmen may call each other a "Paddy" or a "Mick". I presume other ethinic groups have similar words that can be "familiar or affectionate" when used by a member of the group, but are considered offensive when used by someone outside the group. Seems like the bottom line is simple: there's no point in offending somebody.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: DougR
Date: 25 Sep 00 - 02:38 PM

I guess you could substitute "Flago" for "Dago," and keep the rhythm of the song, but then you would probably have to come up with a definition for "Flago," of course. :>) DougR


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Naemanson
Date: 25 Sep 00 - 03:21 PM

I recite a C. Fox Smythe poem that also contains the term "dago" and I substitute the word Spanish for it. I think we need to recognize that there is no dividing line for ethnic slurs. If the "N-word" is a perjorative against blacks then the "D-word" is one against Hispanics. I need to ask my brother in law about this. He is a Mexican National and would have a good opinion.

The other side of the coin is that the old timers didn't neccessarily mean anything derogatory when they used these terms. It was the way to distinguish between people. Of course, there were plenty of people even then who used the words intending to hurt. We can't get around that. Humans are human.

If you are going to use "dago" in a song to be historically accurate then you should be willing to use the other terms as well and stand ready to take the flak. It all boils down to knowing your audience and what they will stand for.

There are those who mourn such cleansing of the old songs and ask where it will end. I understand and believe in their position but also recognize that improving relations between the races will take generations. Erasing these things from the old songs is a small step on that path and a small sacrifice in the overall picture.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 25 Sep 00 - 03:41 PM

GUEST,Joe: Oddly enough, St. Louis was where I grew up, before coming to St. Paul. I lived on the fringe of "The Hill" and some of my best friends were Italian. (The ones who didn't go to public school went to St. Aloysius. You're a true South St. Louisan if you know how to pronounce "Aloysius." Want to take a crack at it, Joe?)

Yes, I did call it "dago hill" in my days as a callow youth, but I was also taught that "dago" was an impolite word to use in front of Italians. (My father's term was "Eye-talian.")

On a visit to St. Louis last year, some of my old high school friends took me out for dinner at one of those Italian restaurants, and I mentioned the term "dago hill." He said, "We don't call it that any more; we just call it 'The Hill.'" Certainly all the tourist brochures call it "The Hill," as you can see by using the blue clicky.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: sophocleese
Date: 25 Sep 00 - 04:05 PM

So is dago Spanish or Italian? I always thought of it as Italian. Where does the term come from?

I guess in this song I don't see it as derogatory because Dago Pete appears in the same stanza as Lars the Dane. Is Dane a derogatory term? Is Dago Pete Spanish or Italian? Altering dago to spanish could be a drastic change if Dago Pete was originally Italian.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: radriano
Date: 25 Sep 00 - 04:46 PM

Hi Mike:

I sing this song as well. For the second line of the third verse I sing "for a good old fiddler's tune."

When I transcribed the song originally (from a CD by the English shanty group Landlocked) this is what I thought they were singing. There were some other phrases I was not sure of and when I received a copy of the original poem from one of Landlocked's members I was a little put off by the "Dago" references. However, I do sing "Dago Pete" in the seventh verse because that seems more like someone's nickname and somehow less offensive.

I think it's okay to change words when performing a song in public if those words might be offensive to someone. In fact, I've been known to delete entire verses if it's doesn't detract from the song too much. In other cases, I might only sing a song in certain situations because of content.

Of course, the late great Stan Hugill almost never performed the original verses to most of the shanties he sang because of content. In fact, many of the shanties in his book Shanties of the Seven Seas did not contain the original verses he learned.


Radriano


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 25 Sep 00 - 04:55 PM

AL-oh-ISH-us

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 25 Sep 00 - 06:15 PM

Dave O: You win the prize: one serving of toasted ravioli, at the McDonald's on the levee.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 25 Sep 00 - 06:17 PM

I understand "dago" is a corruption of the name "Diego" which could be either Spanish or Italian.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 25 Sep 00 - 08:17 PM

I've never heard Dago as referring to Italians. Except when it's being used as a general term for everyone on the other side of what the English call the English Channel.

But I can't imagine being offended by this song, if I was Spanish or whatever, any more than I would if it had been Paddy or Mick. That's because the song is conveying a message about a fellowship of the sea which transcends these differences.

There are contexts where I might seriously object to Paddy or Mick, when they are attached to a contemptuous stereotype. It's "horses for courses" - I don't think general rules apply.

That includes general rules like Naemanson's "If you are going to use "dago" in a song to be historically accurate then you should be willing to use the other terms as well and stand ready to take the flak." It's not a question of taking the flak, it's recognsing whether in any particular case it's going to be hurtful to people who don't deserve to be hurt.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: GUEST,Michael in Swansea
Date: 26 Sep 00 - 08:41 AM

Well thanks everyone.
Radriano - I know Landlocked very well they're personal friends of mine, "A good old fiddlers tune" I didn't know they'd recorded it. Pete I shall have to think about.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: catspaw49
Date: 26 Sep 00 - 09:15 AM

McGrath, in the US at least, Dago refers to mainly Italians and paddymac has it right. I grew up in strongly Italian immigrant little town and the second generation men especially would use the term in banter with each other, along with some other colorful language.

Also, Jim Dixon.......My wife is from St. Louis and her family now only says "The Hill" which has now got some real "class" but still great food. Although I grew up with a strong Italian heritage in the community, it was the first place I had encountered toasted ravioli. Kinda' different.........

I think the changes that occur over the years to these epithets and how/where they are acceptable is always interesting. In WWI there was a patriotic type song in the US, "When Tony goes over the top, keep your eyes on, that fighting Wop."

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: radriano
Date: 26 Sep 00 - 11:12 AM

Hi Mike,

"A good old fiddler's tune" is what I thought Landlocked was singing. I forget what they said they actually sang - it might well have been "a Dago fiddler's tune." I've also noticed that in the process of learning a song I sometimes change phrases inadvertently. In this case I preferred my phrase to the one in the original poem. In a way, I guess it's the folk process at work.

Regards,
Radriano


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: radriano
Date: 26 Sep 00 - 07:16 PM

By the way, Mike, according to Landlocked, the melody used for this song was composed by A. Fitzsimmons.

I did post the song earlier this year as a "Lyric Add" but it hasn't gotten into Digitrad yet.

Regards,
Radriano


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Lepus Rex
Date: 26 Sep 00 - 07:27 PM

Jim, just a note: Lots of places in MN still sell dago sandwiches.

I wouldn't say the use of 'dago' in this song is offensive. I affectionately call my friends 'stupid Kraut,' 'Limey bastard,' 'goddamned reindeer-jockey Finnlander,' and 'McAsshole,' but they don't take it personally, because they know I mean it in a NICE way. :) I don't use ethnic slurs against people who are still descriminated against, however. It's only a matter of time before someone kills me, isn't it?

---Lepus Rex


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: catspaw49
Date: 26 Sep 00 - 07:34 PM

Could you send me your address Lepus? Are you generally home evenings?

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Gypsy
Date: 26 Sep 00 - 09:27 PM

Sigh....in a society where I am expected to laugh at "dumb blonde" jokes, and "helpless women" jokes....and am told what a bad sport i am for not laughing. How far must we take political correctness? Are we going to get so cleansed that we truly have a "person person taking the person to the person box"?


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Lepus Rex
Date: 27 Sep 00 - 01:15 AM

Eeegh! Lemme guess, Spaw... Piano wire???

Did I mention that my grandfather's grandma was a Krau... er, German type person? Buy, I do love dem German types! :D

---Lepus Rex


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Lepus Rex
Date: 27 Sep 00 - 01:16 AM

Buy=boy. And BOY, I still love Germans!


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Les B
Date: 27 Sep 00 - 01:37 AM

I heard somewhere that Dago was a slightly derogatory term used between the northern and southern Italians, but can't remember which direction it went.

It seems to me the words aren't that bad as is, but if you feel uncomfortable singing them there are perhaps more acceptable two syllable words to substitute -- "Irish fiddler's tune" - "gypsy fiddler's tune" "Irish Mike" "gypsy dave" etc.

Another ethical problem comes with changing a modern songwriter's words -- of course, one could argue, that's the folk process.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Chanteyranger
Date: 27 Sep 00 - 02:18 AM

What is striking is how sailors had nicknames for sailors of many nationalities, all meant in the spirit of both comradeship and a feeling of superiority, many being or developing into slurs on shore. English speaking sailors used "Johnny Crapoo" (A Frenchman), "Yankee," (for you-know who), "Dutchie," and "Squarehead," which seem pretty mild. I would not, and do not, use words which hitorically and currently very offensive, and today universally used as epithets, such as "nigger," even though in sea songs it too usually wasn't meant in a spirit of hatred. Just judge for yourself which terms conjure up strong feelings, are used today as racist terms, and are offensive. As radriano said, even the great authority and chanteyman Stan Hugill had his line he didn't want to cross - sexually explicit lyrics- (even though he collected songs with the word "nigger"). The point being, if Hugill can edit out what he was uncomfortable with and still capture the spirit of the song with other authentic lyrics, so can you. One last point: chanteys were often made up on the spot, and what we have written are chanteys as presented to the collectors by particular singers. Some sang some very crude stuff, others were more poetic and romantic in their lyrics. "Different ships - different long splices," as the sailors said.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: GUEST,Michael in Swansea
Date: 27 Sep 00 - 08:59 AM

Radriano, what I meant was I like what you thought it was "A good old fiddlers tune". I've only heard one of Landlocked sing it, that was at a party after the Swansea Maritme festival last July and there was a definite double "Dago" then.
Alan Fitzsimmons of The Keelers did write the tune that "we" sing, he used to be in a trio "Pinch of Salt" and they released a tape of Cicely Fox-Smith poems put to mucsic - Alan composing all tunes. It's from this tape that I picked it up.
About feeling uncomfortable singing the song it would of course depend on the company I'm in at the time. I've been in some circles, as no doubt has everyone here, where anything goes. Reckon it's a case of sizing up the situation before opening mouth.
You're a great bunch, glad I found you

Mike


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: SINSULL
Date: 27 Sep 00 - 10:25 AM

Wasn't the chaplin in M.A.S.H. ( the movie, not the TV show) called Dago Red? I remember Dago red referring to cheap, red, jug wine. Anyway, in the song, I do not interpret it at a slur. But unlike the Rex, I wouldn't use it to address a friend... even if I liked Italians. Not to imply I don't but... I hate these threads. No matter what you say, it still comes out "Some of my best friends are..."


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: M.Ted
Date: 27 Sep 00 - 11:49 AM

Naming that thing a "Dago sandwich" sounds like an insult to Italians everywhere--though given the fact that the Midwest is the land of meatloaf, perhaps it is an attempt to be inclusive;-)

Dago does seem to be derived from Diego--Southern Italy,centered particularly in Naples and Sicily, has always had close ties with Spain, the rulers have often been Spanish(the Borgias, for instance) and the Italians, particularly from the North, have tended to regard the Spanish as dirty and uncivilized--

"Wop" seems to come from the word "guappo" which is a slightly derogatory term for a dandy--

Italian-Americans don't seem to mind hearing the word "Dago" as long as it is not aimed at them in malice(believe me, I've got a lot of family in Hoboken)--They don't use that word much, or "Wop" for that matter, but they do use "ginzo" a lot, and it has a very specific meaning--


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: mousethief
Date: 27 Sep 00 - 11:51 AM

Ginzo? Aren't those the Japanese knives they sell on late-night TV?

Alex
O..O
=o=


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: catspaw49
Date: 27 Sep 00 - 12:09 PM

Dago was used a lot in the banter of friends, but it could be and often was used as a very derogatory term by outsiders/non-Italians.

WOP on the other hand was very derogatory. I understood the term to come from "Without Papers" but I could well be wrong. Where did you find that Ted?

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Jim Krause
Date: 27 Sep 00 - 12:32 PM

I've rasseled with this question, too. I used to sing Henry C. Work's Kingdom Coming. My feeling is that in the case of your song, and the Work song, it draws attention to itself if you censor your performance, and thus the song becomes worse for it. If you decide to keep the song in your performance repertoire, you might wish to select your audience carefully. I finally did that with Kingdom Coming. I sing it only for Civil War enthusiasts, or Victorian living history events. They seem to understand a little better the usages of the 19th century, and excuse them. You may wish to do the same with Lee Fore Brace.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Jim the Bart
Date: 27 Sep 00 - 01:51 PM

Tough question. My dad, that crusty old Polak, still calls red Italian table wine "Dago Red" and doesn't understand why he can't find that section in the liquor store. To him, there is no offense intended - that's just what it's called.

The immigrant generation often used terms like that when talking about other immigrant groups. Later on, when the groups mixed, the terms would still be used, BUT (and it's a big but) you wouldn't use that term in the presence of a friend or acquaintance who was part of that group. The implication in that is that there is that it's not nice to use the term. There is implied derogation in the term.

However, (and it's a big however) to sanitize a song by removing all these terms seems somewhat false. It's like in ther movies where rough, tough teamsters say "shucks"; it just don't work. My suggestion is the common DISCLAIMER. Explain, in introducing songs that have these terms, that you are including them for historical purposes. State that you don't support the term, that you are a skilled professional and they should not use this kind of language at home, etc. Keep it light, but make it clear that like an actor using vernacular language (Out darn spot! - I don't think so) you're just singing it like it was wrote, 'er writed, 'er scribbled.

The role of Miss Manners is being played today by
Bart


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Gern
Date: 27 Sep 00 - 02:08 PM

Why are people so quickly to raise an outraged flag of political correctness when asked to show some sensitivity? If friends don't mind ethnic kidding, that's fine. But an audience of strangers will include some who are offended, who don't listen to any disclaimer about historical accuracy, and who have a right to their feelings even if no harm was intended. As an old-time banjo player, I perform a number of minstrel-era songs, and feel free to exponge any terms liable to offend. If history is somehow violated, so be it. Attitudes change over time, and gratefully a lot of once widespread slurs are no longer acceptable. Words like "dago" and n-words and f-words etc. really hurt and really inspire belittling and hatred. I try not to judge those who are offended -- instead, I make an effort not to offend them. It doesn't cost me much.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: MMario
Date: 27 Sep 00 - 02:31 PM

like many terms, who knows what the derivation of "WOP" actually is, but I know that during the early part of the 1900's when my grandparents came to this country it was used a a derogatory term implying illegal entry. "without papers" was the implication if not the derivation. It was a trigger word for my grandfather (they still talk about a few of the bar fights he was involved with due to someone using the term in regards to him) According to some of the older italians around while I was growing up, it also had the added implication that a "wop" was lower class, had no breeding/culture/couth. Seems logical in a twisted sort of way.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: GUEST,d.bryant@kingston.ac.uk
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 06:15 AM

What a stupid question to ask !

If we reject (or even worse, change) all the songs which aren't strictly PC, what would we be left with ?

The prejudices (or lack of) which are displayed in our heritage material are one of the important clues to the the way that people felt about issues in the past - surely one of the the reasons for singing/researching the stuff in the first place. After all why don't we change the song to make it refer to a modern turbine ship, if we want to modernise it ? If we remove the colour (in more ways than one in this case) from songs we lose those little things which give them their raison d'etre.

Also in this poem/song the word 'dago' is used affectionately rather than maliciously - rather as the insults are in Kipling's 'Gunga Dinn' - I see no malice in its use.

After all that, of course, Cicely Fox-Smith was relatively modern - she only died in 1954 I think, but like Kipling (whose style hers often resembles) she likes to use a linguistic style that she feels would correspond to that of the person narrating it.

If you want a Fox-Smith song which isn't contentious look up 'Home Lads, Home'. Its under 'Where there's rest for Horse and Man' on Digitrad - although 'India' in the first line should be 'Flanders' and 'Munn' later on should be 'Mons'. Sarah Morgan has made a wonderful song out of it.

Finally, although I live in England (and sing sea songs and shanties) I don't know of the 'Landlocked' recording - How does the tune go - I'd like to sing it.

Dave Bryant


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: LR Mole
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 10:15 AM

Ah, but is it you singing or are you being the character singing the song in the piece of theatre the song is?? Were I a lawyer I'd copyright all ethnic or possibly ethnic terms and sue everyone who felt gypped, or welshed on a bet, or mentioned a paddy wagon, or acted waspish. My motto would be ENFORCED HUMMING OF ALL POTENTIALLY OFFENSIVE LYRICS. Poo.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: GUEST,John McGovern
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 08:18 PM

I see this as a celebration of internationalism at sea, the singer/writer is obviously lammenting the loss of three good friends and workmates/colleagues. It does seem slightly criminal to change the words of old songs to suit a now more pc audience.

I'd suggest, like others, the substitution of the derogitory word (as its now seen), to Spanish, only because it does not take anything from the lyric, or, use the word, but, explain its hitorical context (i'd personally choose the latter!)


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: GUEST,John McGovern
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 08:43 PM

I see this as a celebration of internationalism at sea, the singer/writer is obviously lammenting the loss of three good friends and workmates/colleagues. It does seem slightly criminal to change the words of old songs to suit a now more pc audience.

I'd suggest, like others, the substitution of the derogitory word (as its now seen), to Spanish, only because it does not take anything from the lyric, or, use the word, but, explain its hitorical context (i'd personally choose the latter!)


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Gypsy
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 09:09 PM

Still cannot believe that something this old, cannot be sung without offense. BUT, if you truly want to avoid offense...pull out that thesauras, and start inserting what will fit rythmically. Good old song has about the same syllables, and you could the mans name one with 3 syllables. Or, conversely, you could state that this is a traditional song, tell the story, then sing it.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 03:42 AM

Well, I gotta vent. I got rudely interrupted in a song circle this evening while singing "Blow Ye Winds in the Morning." I had also sung Greenland Whale Fisheries," and the ladies thought whale-killing songs were offensive.
Grrr.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Night Owl
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 03:55 AM

Joe.....do you think giving a brief history of the songs as Gypsy suggested would have helped make them "acceptable"???


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Michael in Swansea
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 06:53 AM

Since starting this thread I've sung Lee Fore Brace only twice in pubic, once in my local pub, not known for singarounds, and the second time was in the Tap and Spile in Whitby on the Sunday evening of the Captain Scott festival. Both times I sung the "double Dago" no one objected. In the Tap I explained before starting, in my local pub no-one gives a toss.

Joe, I wouldn't have said Greenland Whale Fisheries was a whale killing song, more like a whale killer killing song. Let's hear it for the big fellow.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: mkebenn
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 07:39 AM

Is it just my W.A.S.P. senesibility that does not find mick, polack, kraut, tommy, etc offensive, but finds nigger, kike, spick, chink extremly so? Maybe just me, but I call one of my friends " dumb Canuck" all the time, and he responds in kind. These words seem almost playfull to me as opposed the hate implied in the latter.. Mike


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Butch
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 08:38 AM

I have to deal with this subject myself. I build and play early 19th century banjos and do shows on the history of the instrument. Many terms that are today considered VERY insulting are sprinkled through the lyrics. My answer is to just say up front:" In the attempt to be honest about this music, I do not change the words. You will be uneasy with these lyrics, but if I changed them, you would loose the spirit of the historical context. If you are not at all uneasy, then you may need to look deep inside yourself and find out why. "

With this as an introduction, I have never had a problem. It does however lead to some great debates on racism, and as I see it, that is a good thing.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: John Routledge
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 08:43 AM

What please are my rights as someone who is incensed by the adulteration of old songs to satisfy what may or may not be considered acceptable in 2001.

Please leave these songs alone - don't sing them - and the unacceptable elements will cause offence to no-one.

Yours Traditionally John


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: John Routledge
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 08:52 AM

If I had given myself ten minutes to calm down before posting it would have allowed Butch to set out my feelings better than I did myself! John


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Ribbit
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 09:17 AM

Joe, it's a good thing you didn't sing "Squid jigging ground". They would have probably been up in arms! *bg*Thom


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Bernard
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 02:57 PM

Never let a Dago by...


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 06:12 PM

How we laugh today at the Bowdlerisation of classic works including Shakespeare......


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Jeri
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 06:27 PM

For the record, I don't believe Cicely Fox-Smith wrote Home, Lads, Home. From the DT notes: "The original words to "Home Lands Home" were written by a Hampshire soldier during the First World War. Sarah [Morgan] found them in a magazine, edited them, and wrote a tune."


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Jeri
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 06:38 PM

I don't have Landlocked - I have a CD from a group called Pinch O' Salt. The whole CD consists of Fox Smith (whoops - no hyphen) poems set to music by Alan Fitzsimmons, one of the group's members. I believe the tune people know for Lee Fore Brace is his. Website here.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Deckman
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 09:45 PM

... about the term "WOP." There was a period of time, at Ellis Island, when they ran into a lot of immegrants from Italy, by chance, that arrived without the proper paperwork. The immegration workers, to save time, would pin a label on their clothing saying W.O.P. (without papers). This allowed them to be sifted easily. Maggie Dwyer, of the "John Dwyer - song and stories" thread was a National Parks Docent at Ellis Island. I'll bet she could add to this story. CHEERS


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: StillyRiverSage (inactive)
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 09:59 PM

Bob, I wasn't a "docent," I was a ranger...

There are a lot of stories attributed to Ellis Island but I haven't seen the documentation to prove or disprove them. This one makes more sense than some of the jokes spun off of the slang. Maggie


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: sophocleese
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 10:35 PM

Butch, I like that introduction.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: StillyRiverSage (inactive)
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 10:56 PM

I've taken time to read the entire thread, and there are some very good answers here. Balancing cultural sensitivity (with or without a political correctness component) against historical accuracy is difficult. Humming the line is one possibility, explaining the context to the audience is another. Educating the audience isn't a bad thing. And the suggestion to just not sing them if you feel compelled to change them is also a good answer. Ours is no longer a culture that will lose songs in one generation if they aren't sung. They're written down and recorded.

Objectifying an entire race or culture by applying a slang name to them is part of the human condition. It wasn't invented by anyone in this generation of humans on the planet, and it won't be discontinued by this generation. Places like Ellis Island were where the rubber hit the road in Euramerican cultural biases. Some very powerful Social Darwinists influenced immigration legislation in the few decades after the turn of the last century. If anyone really wants to examine this end of the question, look at Donna Haraway's essay "Teddybear Patriarchy" in _Primate Visions_. Bigotry knows no boundaries, this is just one example. My family dropped the "O" in O'Dwyer around the mid-1800's when a general cultural attitude was "no Irish need apply."

Enough preaching to the choir. In public, if you can't sing it comfortably, if you are a purist but don't feel you have the moral authority to sing it without modification, then leave it to someone else. If you feel comfortable being part of the folk process, and changing meets your needs, then sing it. Either way, someone will be unhappy.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: GUEST,Mark. West Sussex. UK
Date: 07 Jan 01 - 01:59 PM

The reference is undoubtedly to a Spanish Sailor. Remember, they sent the Armada, they colonised a lot of the New World by sea. The Italians, as a Mediterranean Coastal Nation never really had a Ocean Navy for the British Sailors to have to fight. Sailors from shanty times were a hardbitten, rough old lot. Many of the references to "Niggers" stem from the Plantation Owners habit of signing slave labour onto merchant ships out of planting and harvest season. Quite a number of great shantymen came out of these black crews and many of the songs referring to "Niggers" were innocently authored by black seamen themselves. The fact is that Shanties are just about the most politically incorrect art form on the planet. If you sing enough of them you will probably end up offending pretty well every nation in the world. You either adapt them or leave them well alone. I just use my common sense. References to "Brown" or "Darky" girls easily translate to "young" or "pretty" and "Dego" or "Dago" fiddler can become simply "shanty" fiddler. Unless there is some historical provenance that specifically connects the shanty to some inter-nation event or conflict I cannot see the problem. As long as the original is preserved and recorded for the serious musicologist to note attitudes and prejudices historically reflected in the words, you can do what you like with them. In Britain we've been changing words for thousands of years. Its called the "tradition". The Americans have been adapting our songs for at least two centuries, and when Dylan does it they call it "genius".


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Bill D
Date: 07 Jan 01 - 05:37 PM

words themselves are innocent....but when people who hate and discriminate choose words to use against those they are trying to denigrate, THOSE words become 'charged', even if the subjects use the words themselves. Some words have been taken over and ruined..like 'queer', others were mostly created in order to be offensive.

It can be delicate, but most sane people can tell when the words are being used AT someone, and when they are just being quoted, as in most songs. I am thoroughly fed up with those who wish to 'clean up' all historical songs and literature (Huck Finn) in order to be PC.....if you want to know how I mean a term, I'll tell you!....

as to Joe's problem with ladies & whaling songs....issue them little ear plugs!! Where will history BE in 500 years if we don't remember what really WAS?


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: chordstrangler
Date: 07 Jan 01 - 08:34 PM

I remember a few years back when I recorded a concert in Belfast that was to be transmitted by the BBC. I sang a song I had written about Enid Blyton. When the programme was transmitted the song was omitted. I got a letter from the producer saying that the song had managed to offend children, the coloured community, gays and lesbians, the British Army, people with mental handicap, alcoholics, animal lovers, South Africans, transvestites,and the population in general. I honestly thought that the song was harmless. Could this be a record?


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Snuffy
Date: 08 Jan 01 - 08:13 AM

Could it be a tape as well?


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Grab
Date: 08 Jan 01 - 08:52 AM

Chordstrangler, that's one song you've got to pass on!

Grab.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Michael in Swansea
Date: 08 Jan 01 - 09:36 AM

Chordstrangler,

You can't just leave it there, probably the most offensive song on planet Earth *GRIN*. You HAVE to post it.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Bill D
Date: 08 Jan 01 - 11:55 AM

no, the most offensive song ever is a parody of "King of the Road" called "King of the Pimps" which 2 friends of mine wrote 30 years ago...it is funny, clever, and TRULY has something to offend almost anyone...and before you ask, I will NOT post it in open forum..*grin*


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Gervase
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 10:33 AM

Nah, the most offensive song is the gay parody of Byker Hill.
For what it's worth, the full version of God Save the Queen is pretty damned offensive too.


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Subject: Lyr Add: ENID BLYTON (Mickey MacConnell)
From: chordstrangler
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 03:59 PM

OK lads, but remember that it was your idea to post this

ENID BLYTON

Dear old Enid Blyton, I thought of you today
as I helped my eldest kid to put her books and toys away.
For there upon the bookshelf, I could scarce believe my eyes
were dozens of adventure books about your Famous Five.
And it swept me backwards through the years for I had read them too
and marvelled at their bravery and deeds of derring-do
But nowadays its just as well that your'e not still alive
to see what time and life have done unto your Famous Five.

Now Julian was the leader with a good staunch British heart
he got a scholarship to Oxford where he studied rather hard.
He took law and criminology until one fateful day
he suddenly discovered that crime does really pay.
So he opened massage parlours in Bradford, York and Leeds
where fat old men and Swedish girls do foul and filthy deeds.
Now he peddles dirty movies, plastic macs and whips and chains
Oh Enid love I'm not surprised you hang your head in shame.


(alternate first verse to be sung with great caution)

Now Julian was the leader with a good staunch British heart
He got a scholarship to Sandhurst where he studied mighty hard
When he joined the British Army it wasn't hard to guess
that he'd end up being commissioned into the SAS.
When they sent him down to South Armagh, poor Julian was fooled
for he didn't know the Paddies don't play Enid Blyton's rules.
And when the smoke had cleared away, few remains were to be seen
so they buried him in Amsterdam, New York and Aberdeen.


Georgina hated being a girl and that's why, I suppose
she told everyone to call her "George" and dressed up in men's clothes.
But in our youthful innocence in those far-off distant days
we never realised that brave Georgina was a Gay.
She came out of the closet when she met a girl named Jill
who is now her live-in lover in a flat in Notting Hill
And she says she's very happy, says its great to be alive
the odds seemed much against it when she joined the Famous Five.


Now Anne, she was the quiet one who lived in mortal dread
of smugglers and jewel thieves and foreigners with beards.
Her nerves got taut as fiddle strings from all the stress and strain
so they put her in a madhouse for the criminally insane.
And Tim, the faithful terrier at last ran out of luck
when he bared his teeth and argued with a forty-three-ton truck.
Poor Tim found out the hard way what is meant by overdrive
Farewell four-footed, furry, faithful, foolish,flattened, F........k'd up Phantom Famous Five.


Poor Dick could never settle after all the things he'd seen
he was into booze and Evostick by the time he was thirteen.
He had been dried out three dozen times when he reached twenty-two
so he went off to South Africa like all the losers do.
And I'm not surprised he's happy there, in fact it is his right.
don't all the bad guys dress in black and the good guys dress in white.
If he stays away from black wimmen and white rum, he might survive
in that spirit of peace and freedom much beloved by Famous Five.

outro...
For the Five stood for integrity, the Five fought the good fight
in the days the bad guys dressed in black and the good guys dressed in white
So Enid love its just as well that your'e not still alive
to see what time and life has done unto your Famous Five.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: GUEST,Blind desert Pete
Date: 17 Jan 01 - 05:27 PM

I just watched the movie Lenny, with Dustin Hoffman as Lenny Bruce. I think everyone should listen to the bit "are there any niggers here tonight" by making these terms taboo we give them MORE power.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 Jan 01 - 05:52 PM

It occurs to me, reading through this that in America anyway you'd better sing it changing Dago to Spanish.

Nothing to do with censoring it - but if Dago means Italian in America, keeping it just distorts what the author meant, which was clearly Spanish. (Or what Americans would call Hispanic - but I think you'd best not use that. I can't imagine any sailor of the time using the word - and it wouldn't scan.)


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Wolfgang
Date: 18 Jan 01 - 04:38 AM

from an online dictionary:

Dago:

Interestingly, much like Guinea, this derogatory term for Italians did not originally refer to Italians. Dago comes from the Spanish given name Diego. It nautical in origin and originally referred to Spanish or Portuguese sailors on English or American ships. This usage dates to the 1830s. The meaning eventually broadened to include anyone from southern Europe, before narrowing again and restricting usage to Italians. The sense meaning Italian dates to at least the 1870s.

from the same site:

Wop:

Similar to wog, wop is often thought to be an acronym for With Out Passport, supposedly used on Ellis Island to designate immigrants without proper papers. This pejorative term for an Italian was probably first used in America, but its roots are in the Romance languages.

Like many other etymologies contained in these pages, this one is not certain, although most authorities agree on the likely origin. It probably derives from the Italian dialectal guappo, or thug. This in turn derives from the Spanish guapo, meaning a dashing braggart or bully, and which eventually derives from the Latin vappa, meaning flat wine or scoundrel. A related word is the French wape, meaning rogue.

The earliest usage in the OED2 dates to 1912 and is spelled wap, which supports the derivation from guappo. The next usage cite, from 1914, uses the more familiar spelling of wop.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: GUEST,Dave Bryant d.bryant@kingston.ac.uk
Date: 28 Feb 01 - 04:43 AM

After my rather anti-PC remarks, perhaps I should put my hand up to the fact that I HAVE changed the words of one of my songs to make it more acceptable. I used to sing the song "I touched her on the toe" with the final chorus line of "The more I love, my nigger draw near". Being a lecherous sort of fellow, (is that non-PC ?) I usually try to select a suitable shapely female from the audience to enable me to illustrate the song somewhat. On one ocasion I selected a very attractive girl from the audience and it was only as I reached the last line that the fact that she was black sank in. Since then I have substituted the word "darling". - Mind you most feminists still find the song offensive - Ho - Hum.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: GUEST,Dave Bryant (d.bryant@kingston.ac.uk)
Date: 26 Jun 01 - 08:28 AM

JERI, if you read further on the notes given for "Home Lads, Home" you will find it WAS written by FOX-SMITH. Given her Kiplingesque ability to enter into the language of her narrators, (which started this whole thread in the first place) it's no wonder that the person who wrote the note was fooled into thinking that she was a he.

I do know Sarah Morgan and there is no doubt about the origin of the lyrics.

I and many of my friends are looking for any poetry by Cicely Fox-Smith that might by worth setting.

And finally I'm still looking for the tune to "Lee Forebrace". I


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: GUEST,SharonA
Date: 26 Jun 01 - 12:53 PM

Long ago, LRMole sez: "My motto would be ENFORCED HUMMING OF ALL POTENTIALLY OFFENSIVE LYRICS."

I vaguely remember a Martin Mull song on that subject, where most of the song was hummed. The only line I remember clearly is: "Whips and chains, mmhmm, Great Danes, mmhmm, mmhmm, mmhmm."

There's also a wonderful Lou and Peter Berryman song, "A Chat with Your Mother", on the subject of the f-word.

I'm with BillD (Jan 7 '01) on the subject of censorship of lyrics. I'm frustrated by "cleaned-up" versions of old songs that have lost the flavor of the original, especially songs with derogatory terms that are now obsolete. A sensitively phrased introduction/warning about the history of the lyric should be sufficient in most contexts. For especially offensive songs in especially emotionally charged situations, I'd say the song should not be sung at all, rather than altered, since the meaning is likely to come across anyway.

We should not "clean up" history for individuals or groups who judge it to be "bad"; instead we should use it as an object lesson (those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it... whose quote is that?). We're already struggling to educate young people who don't know the Holocaust ever happened.


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 26 Jun 01 - 01:16 PM

Hell, a good story is just that---a good story. Changing historical documents like this, even knowing the author, is the same as burning books to my mind. Even at the risk of offending a few good folks, I'd never quit singing any song---or ban any book.

30% of the people are against everything all the time. (Bobby Kennedy)

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 26 Jun 01 - 01:22 PM

And with the above said, if I was playing in Italy or an Italian restaurant, I'd probably change it.

Art again


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Subject: RE: Help: Advice Please?
From: Jacob B
Date: 26 Jun 01 - 05:07 PM

I think it's important to realize that these words become offensive under two circumstances:

1. When someone deliberately uses them to offend you.

2. When someone uses them casually, without bothering to think about the fact that they are likely to offend you.

It seems to me to make a lot of sense to give an introduction, explain what you are about to do and why, and ask if anybody minds.

I know, it's not possible under all circumstances, but it will help avoid offense.

Jacob


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Subject: RE: Advice Please?
From: Michael in Swansea
Date: 16 Dec 06 - 07:35 PM

Hiyah all,
I've brought this back because we're releasing a new cd, (those who don't know me, I sing with Baggyrinkle Swansea Shantymen), anyway I've sung "Leefore Brace" with the double "Dago" many times, in singarounds, since I first posted this question and have always said that this song contains the word "dago" and that if anyone thinks that the word is derogatory, in the song, to speak to me afterwards. No-one has.
The other Baggies think it a good song. My question now is - do YOU think should it be included on the cd, with double "dago"? I have until about Jan 5th to decide. If the general concencus of opinion is no the I shall request its removal.
Reason for asking is that our first recording contained the "N" word, which is unacceptable under any circumstances, and have since mourned the fact
If I call someone a "f*****g dago" then that's an insult, but if I sing about "Dago Pete" is that an insult to Pete?
Those of you who have heard Danny sing it, do you think he's insulting anyone? The way he does it is more like a prayer.
I will be interested in your replies, and please don't repeat anything that's been said before.
Bed now,
Nite,
Mike


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Subject: RE: Advice Please?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Dec 06 - 08:58 PM

Why did they murder Jack?

There are pictures

do you have songs.

WHY?


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: Mo the caller
Date: 17 Dec 06 - 06:17 AM

If you sing it with an intro maybe put it in with a sleeve note?


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: melodeonboy
Date: 17 Dec 06 - 06:34 AM

I'm usually reluctant to change lyrics, unless they are actually designed to be offensive, in which case I probably wouldn't be doing the song anyway!

Up until last year I sang with a (mainly unaccompanied) folk band. When we did "Johnny comes down the Hilo", one of the other singers changed the word "nigger" to "rigger". I was in favour of keeping the original word as I could see no intention to offend.

I'd keep the word, and risk the unlikely but possible oversensitivity on the part of some people.


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 17 Dec 06 - 07:53 AM

"the unlikely but possible oversensitivity" - I guess it depends where you play. I can't think of a place I'd be playing where people wouldn't be offended - or at least, disturbed - by the use of "the n-word".

As far as the "Leefore Brace" song goes - you would want to consider whether people of Italian/Spanish/Portuguese, etc., background, and outside of the "folk music community" are likely to hear the CD. And, you need to get opinions from people of those backgrounds; I'm not sure this forum is the place to get them; it seems to be comprised largely of Anglo/Celts. If there are Latins out there, make yourselves and your opinions known!


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: Leadfingers
Date: 17 Dec 06 - 08:35 AM

Personally , IF I decide to perform a traditional song which has any 'dubious' content in the lyric , and any one in the audience takes exception , that is THEIR problem , not mine . I can see NO good reason to change ANY traditional lyric because 'modern' thought
puts a different meaning to any part of the lyric . Its just the same as someone objecting to Hunting or Whaling songs because Hunting and Whaling are not approved of . The fact that hunting and whaling are not the sort of activities that SHOULD be approved of doesnt stop the songs being worth singing .


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie
Date: 17 Dec 06 - 09:01 AM

...This is yet another example of 'political correctness' going too far, I'm afraid I wouldn't even waste my time in thinking about a question like this, some people are just FAR TOO sensitive these days. I mean 'FLAGO' for christs sake, what a stupid suggestion! ...tell you what, lets not bother singing, telling jokes, being religious or doing anything in case we might remotely offend anyones modernised highly weakened sensibilities.
I'm not saying go out of your way to offend (for instance singing 'When Johnny come down to Hilo', in a West Indian Club...
"Well I neber seen de like since I bin born when a big buck nigger wid de seaboots on sez Johnny come down to Hilo...etc")
but just use common sense PLEASE!!!


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 17 Dec 06 - 09:50 AM

Hear, hear Leadfingers.
Political incorrectness is in the ear (or the mind) of the beholder, not the intent of the singer.
Otherwise we'd stop singing about skivvies, or songs in praise of drinking, or that lovely medieval song about "toubacco", or songs about war, or...


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in son
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 Dec 06 - 12:48 PM

I don't think there was much tobacco about in the Middle Ages, George, not outside America anyway.
............................

I don't like the term political correctness, and profer talking about avoiding term that are likely to be taken by people as insulting to them. But the crucial thing isn't the intent, it's also what you know people will take to be our intent. Which most of the time in the context of folk music means in practice, no need to worry much about self-censorship.

I don't think it is ever right to pretend the past was nicer than it was, even when it was pretty nasty.


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: GUEST,Scoville
Date: 17 Dec 06 - 09:48 PM

As far as recording it on a CD, I'd say it's your call.

As far as performing live, my personal feeling is that it depends on the audience. There are no circumstances under which I'd use the N-word in a song. Sorry--I don't care about the historical context or my own intent, it's way too charged (especially in this part of the country). I might explain before hand that that was originally in the song and that I had changed it, but I wouldn't sing it. And I wouldn't use any ethnic epithets in front of children because I don't want to be part of making them accustomed to hearing them before they're old enough and educated enough to know the context.

I don't mind singing about alcohol, tobacco, drug use, or most of the sex references. I avoid some of those songs in front of certain audiences all together rather than change the lyrics, but I don't do ethnic epithets. Yes, I agree that it's at least partly the "fault" of the audience if they're offended, but it's not like I cannot anticipate that somebody might be, in fact, very deeply offended. I'm not a part of any ethnic group for which really offensive epithets exist so I don't think I can fairly say I understand how it feels to hear the N-word used for entertainment.


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie
Date: 18 Dec 06 - 12:41 AM

...Chordstrangler, the song about Enid Blyton, bloody excellent... even I've never managed to offend so many people at once, although my parody of Kenny Rogers 'Coward of the County' did once make someone vomit (it's a version which contains the old Tramp/spittoon joke)


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: Bert
Date: 18 Dec 06 - 01:31 AM

Scoville says ...There are no circumstances under which I'd use the N-word in a song...

It is a problem if a song contains that word. My Dad used to sing an old Cockney song which began "I works just like a Nigger"

I have sung it as written but, my sister changes it to "I works just like a Navvy". I'll probably do the same in future until the Navvies object.


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: Scrump
Date: 18 Dec 06 - 04:23 AM

If I'm singing an old song that has content that might be perceived by some of the audience as "non-PC", I usually preface it with a remark that it was written some time ago when things were different, and explain the historical and/or social context if necessary, to pre-empt any outraged reaction from any "PC brigade" types who might be present. I find that usually works.

I guess if I was recording such a song I would just put something in the sleeve notes to similar effect, but what I wouldn't do is change the words to appease the PC brigade.

(But then I hate the term "PC" anyway, as it presupposes the views expressed in PC terms are "correct" - I don't always agree that's the case.)


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: Tom Hamilton frae Saltcoats Scotland
Date: 18 Dec 06 - 05:21 AM

I just hate PC anyway, it is the language of cowards, and it is so bloody stupid, for example a peron hole is a man hole because a man goes do it and does things underground, until a woman goes down and does the same as a man then I'll call it a pesron hole until then I'll call it a manhole.

and another one is chalkboard, no its a blackboard, the reason is it is black and it is made out of board, black is just a colour that's all.


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: Tim theTwangler
Date: 18 Dec 06 - 05:32 AM

Would I be wrong in thinking that words like Dago had soem origin in people of a different culture making a tab at proniouncing a word they misheard in a foreign (to them) tongue?
Also as with lots of other peoples on the planet British sailors would have been singing of Dago's in a derogative way as one of the many enemy nations that our glorious country has had from time to time.
Any chance one of the clever folks could fill me in re the meaning of any word in Spanish or Italian or Mexican that could be the source word for Dago in this context.
Maby the name of a king or admiral or some such?


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 18 Dec 06 - 06:29 AM

Shantymen.....you sexist bastard!

Surely Shantyperson - show a little sensitivity to us wot is easily offended.


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in son
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Dec 06 - 06:59 AM

But then I hate the term "PC" anyway, as it presupposes the views expressed in PC terms are "correct"

Actually, as it's used these days, the assumption tends to be that the PC term is incorrect. And I strongly suspect that the expression "PC" was coined, or at least popularised by people with that end in view.
................

Why not read what's already been said in the thread, Tim?


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: Tom Hamilton frae Saltcoats Scotland
Date: 18 Dec 06 - 07:43 AM

being very petty arn't we .

shantyman is a man that sings shanties what is wrong with that


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: Tom Hamilton frae Saltcoats Scotland
Date: 18 Dec 06 - 07:44 AM

this is why I don't like the poltical Correctness so much because it's so stupid,


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in son
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Dec 06 - 08:56 AM

Irony: an implied discrepancy between what is said and what is meant.


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: Scoville
Date: 18 Dec 06 - 11:44 AM

Bert, believe me--I'd find a way around it. (In that case, "navvy" seems to work just fine.)

I don't know if this is a UK/USA difference, but there is pretty much no way a pasty-white girl in the South can sing that without causing problems.

I'm actually not a complete PC whore, but my thought is that a lot of very offensive terms were used much more casually in the past than they are now because the people to whom they applied were "less than human". It's not a case of "calling it as it is"; using the term "black" or "Italian" can be considered descriptive. Using the N-word or "dago" has an implied value judgment. People who know me know I don't think that way, but most of the time, my audience doesn't know me well.


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in son
From: Melani
Date: 18 Dec 06 - 12:02 PM

It's easy enough to change lyrics to sound right and also become non-offensive to most people. "Sailor" conveniently has the same number of syllables as the n-word, and will scan fine anywhere. I've actually never heard "Johnny Come Down To Hilo" with line line qupted above; I've heard it as "an Arkansas farmer with his sea boots on." Now that MIGHT offend some Arkansas farmers, but not very likely--it simply points out the incongruity of a farmer wearing seaboots. The nature of chanteys is to change the words anyway.


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: DonMeixner
Date: 18 Dec 06 - 12:39 PM

Don't intentionally hurt someones feelings. Do the song intact if you can. Explain it is historical if it is. Don't be gratuitous and say %#$@ because you can.

Don


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: Leadfingers
Date: 18 Dec 06 - 12:48 PM

100 !!


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: Leadfingers
Date: 18 Dec 06 - 12:49 PM

Bugger !!


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: DonMeixner
Date: 18 Dec 06 - 12:50 PM

Hah!


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: Bert
Date: 18 Dec 06 - 04:15 PM

"Sailor" - Good one Melanie, I'll remember that.


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in son
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Dec 06 - 06:57 AM

"Bugger" - yes, that would fit in as well.


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: Scrump
Date: 19 Dec 06 - 07:26 AM

The trouble with replacing the 'n-word' with 'sailor' is that it requires the subject of the song to be of a seafaring nature, and therefore its use is somewhat limited, in general. I agree with McGrath - 'bugger' is a much less specific word which could be used in a variety of contexts, even those of a land-based occupation.


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Dec 06 - 07:44 AM

But how long before the poofters object to us saying 'bugger' ?


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: Howard Jones
Date: 19 Dec 06 - 08:41 AM

But isn't "bugger" also offensive to many, albeit in a different way?

The problem is that language is a slippery thing which changes with time and place. it may be true that the reason national nicknames were used more casually in the past was because the people to whom they applied were looked down upon, but it may also be that they weren't considered offensive at the time. And perhaps people then were less inclined to take offence than today.

Hugill excuses keeping the word "nigger" on the grounds that it was universally used by both black and white sailors without derogatory overtones. In a multi-racial, multi-national industry it was a man's ability as a sailor and not his skin colour which mattered. Of course the black sailors probably weren't in a position to object.

I had a Welsh friend at university who was universally known as "Taffy", I don't think I ever know his real name. It was neither intended nor seen as anything other than an affectionate nickname.

When I was growing up it would have been considered very offensive to call someone "black", the accepted terms were "negro" or "coloured". Now "black" is the accepted term and the others are considered offensive.


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in son
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Dec 06 - 09:01 AM

I think "bugger" has moved out of the offensive category by now. It just means the same as "bloke" now. In countries where the word "bloke" is current, anyway.


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: Bert
Date: 19 Dec 06 - 12:01 PM

Fellow can also work.


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: Cluin
Date: 19 Dec 06 - 12:04 PM

Or "fucker".


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in son
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Dec 06 - 12:16 PM

Or Yankee or Limey. Or folkie...


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Subject: RE: Advice Please? - use of offensive words in songs
From: Azizi
Date: 19 Dec 06 - 11:55 PM

Howard Jones, I want to publicly thank you for prompting me to engage in research on the historical existence and condition of 19th century and earlier Black sailors.

If I understand a comment you made in your 19 Dec 06 - 08:41 AM post correctly, Hugill [and/or you] are saying that at least on board the ships there was an equalitarian approach to individuals without any regard to race.

Even from the initial reading that I have done online, while I would agree that a man's skills and not his skin color was considered most important during times of danger and during the course of other daily tasks, there can be no doubt that one of the dangers of being a mariner that Black sailors faced that White sailors didn't face was that of being captured, imprisoned and enslaved.

The fact that you [or Hugill?] added the comment "Of course the black sailors probably weren't in a position to object [to being called a N-----" implies to me that the conditions of Black sailors and White sailors were not equal.


-snip-

Be that as it may or may not be, you and other posters to this thread may be interested in reading information that I intend to post{and hopefully others will post} on this Mudcat thread:

Black Jacks: History & Shanties


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