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Double entendre or language shift?

GUEST,vielleuse 05 Feb 06 - 08:03 AM
lady penelope 05 Feb 06 - 01:21 PM
Uncle_DaveO 05 Feb 06 - 01:27 PM
McGrath of Harlow 05 Feb 06 - 01:34 PM
Shields Folk 05 Feb 06 - 02:22 PM
Liz the Squeak 05 Feb 06 - 04:15 PM
Midchuck 05 Feb 06 - 04:52 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 05 Feb 06 - 05:07 PM
Tyke 05 Feb 06 - 05:08 PM
Liz the Squeak 05 Feb 06 - 05:34 PM
MartinRyan 05 Feb 06 - 06:48 PM
artbrooks 05 Feb 06 - 06:51 PM
Ned Ludd 05 Feb 06 - 06:58 PM
Snuffy 05 Feb 06 - 07:54 PM
Bob Bolton 05 Feb 06 - 08:10 PM
artbrooks 05 Feb 06 - 08:16 PM
Amos 05 Feb 06 - 08:41 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 05 Feb 06 - 11:01 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 05 Feb 06 - 11:10 PM
Azizi 05 Feb 06 - 11:27 PM
poetlady 05 Feb 06 - 11:52 PM
Bob Bolton 05 Feb 06 - 11:58 PM
Flash Company 06 Feb 06 - 07:09 AM
jacqui.c 06 Feb 06 - 08:40 AM
Flash Company 06 Feb 06 - 09:34 AM
Ian 06 Feb 06 - 11:24 AM
Paul Burke 06 Feb 06 - 11:30 AM
GUEST 06 Feb 06 - 12:26 PM
TheBigPinkLad 06 Feb 06 - 12:29 PM
GUEST,vielleuse 06 Feb 06 - 02:52 PM
GUEST,vielleuse 06 Feb 06 - 02:56 PM
Amos 06 Feb 06 - 03:02 PM
TinkerandCrab 06 Feb 06 - 04:28 PM
Bob Bolton 06 Feb 06 - 07:24 PM
Uncle_DaveO 07 Feb 06 - 11:40 AM
GUEST,Joe_F 07 Feb 06 - 10:04 PM
Midchuck 07 Feb 06 - 10:37 PM
Uncle_DaveO 08 Feb 06 - 11:10 AM
John MacKenzie 08 Feb 06 - 11:45 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 08 Feb 06 - 12:16 PM
TinaP 08 Feb 06 - 01:05 PM
GUEST,khandu 08 Feb 06 - 01:08 PM
GUEST,vielleuse 08 Feb 06 - 04:00 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 08 Feb 06 - 04:17 PM
GUEST,David Ingerson who has apparently lost his c 08 Feb 06 - 05:19 PM
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Subject: Double entendre or language shift?
From: GUEST,vielleuse
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 08:03 AM

For instance, in the version of the Lover's Ghost I've got here, a young woman is visited by the ghost of her dead lover, who is called Willy. He tells her that he can only stay until the cock crows. Alas, the cock crows three hours early, and he has to go.

Which is it? I think this is a great song, but there are lots of places where you couldn't sing it without sniggering in the back row. And if it is intentional double entendre... well fine, but it doesn't come across to me as a boisterous number, more of a melancholy and haunting one.

There seem to be a lot of Willies in folk song. Will the folk police come to take me away if I change them to Billy?


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: lady penelope
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 01:21 PM

How old is the song? Circa 19th century and earlier, Willy is a common shortening of William and wouldn't have been snigger worthy. Lack of personal alarm clocks also made 'cock crow' a rough means on telling time in the mornings (anyone who keeps poultry may well dispute this.....   :) ). I think the sniggering's the lack of imagination some suffer from......

As to the whole 'folk police' thing, well, it's up to you. Perhaps you can judge audiences as you go along......?


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 01:27 PM

And of course, who here (or anywhere) knows when "willy" or "willie" became a fond reference for the phallic member?   I'd betcha it's long after this song. As a matter of fact, I'd bet money it's in my own lifetime (75).

Dave Oesgterreich


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 01:34 PM

Spell it Willy or Willie, it's a pretty common shortening for anyone called William. I don't think anyone ever sniggered at my father for that name; nor at Willie Nelson either for that matter.


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Shields Folk
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 02:22 PM

If your looking for a double entendre I'll give you one !


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 04:15 PM

Seven long years since I saw my Willie-o....

LTS


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Midchuck
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 04:52 PM

My favorite Robert Burns song/poem title:

"Cock Up Your Beaver."

I swear I am not making this up.

Peter.


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 05:07 PM

A quick look for Willy-Willie produced about twenty that start with that name in the Bodleian Library, including the well-known (or was) "Willie's Drunk Again" (changed to 'Paddy' in some versions). Many, many more with Willie-Willy as the subject.
Would you change them all willy-nilly to 'Billie-Billy'?


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Tyke
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 05:08 PM

Which all goes to prove the moral of the songs.

Sorry can't resist!

You can't keep a good Willy down!


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 05:34 PM

A bad willy on the other hand......

LTS


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 06:48 PM

Or even the other other hand...

Regards


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: artbrooks
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 06:51 PM

"Seven long years"...sounds like a personal problem, Liz.

Bill is a much more common cognomen in the US.


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Ned Ludd
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 06:58 PM

Didn't know you had a Willie 'o' Liz! Sumin' you've not tol' me?


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Snuffy
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 07:54 PM

Kaiser Bill's son, the Crown Prince of Germany, was known as "Little Willie" in WWI and I;m sure that reference was covertly sexual.


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 08:10 PM

G'day Uncle DaveO,

Liz the Sqeak's cryptic "... Seven long years since I saw my Willie-o..." does remind me of one usage of the double entendre Willie that may date back most of your "... in my own lifetime (75)...
".

I remember a collection of "Saucy Seaside Postcards" including (amongst those by a particularly well-known and early supplier of such) a fat man at the seaside speaking to a little boy along the lines of: "Willie ... I had a little Willie myself - but I haven't seen him for years." I think the example came from the 1930s ... but I don't have the book in front of me.

Anyway, the best way to date this usage of "Willie" would be to look for this meaning in the full (22 volumes ... ?) Oxford English Dictionary and find the earliest citation of this sense. That will give an earliest 'provable' date - but may be much later than earleist use in common speech.

I'll see if my Concise Oxford Dictionary has the usage ... when I get home.

(Hmmmm... Snuffy's post arrived as I was posting this ... that wartime 'insult' could well be the source of the later double entendre ... and that would make it ~ 90 years old.

Regards,

Bob


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: artbrooks
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 08:16 PM

The OED on-line says:

2. slang. An infantile name for the penis. Also Comb., as willy-warmer.
1905 Eng. Dial. Dict. Suppl. 178/2 Willy, the male organ; a slang name for a child's penis. Cum., Wm. 1972 Listener 22 June 841/3 The gallant soldier-boys are afflicted with 'syph, darling' ('their willies rot away'). 1975 Observer 7 Dec. 27/3 Joky gifts are speechlessly embarrassing; this season's dud is a woolly willy-warmer. 1977 J. WILSON Making Hate ix. 113 A younger male [baboon]..fingered its crimson penis... 'It's playing with its willie!' Nicky squealed. 1985 P. ANGADI Governess x. 93 We used to hold each other's willies... We didn't know about sex then.


So it seems to be a relatively recent usage.


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Amos
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 08:41 PM

Let them snigger if they don't understand the difference. There are songs about kittens called pussy, too, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't sing them. The point already well-made here is that you have to appreciate the song in its own timeframe, rather tah worrying about sniggerers in the back row because they have learned to use the word differently.


A


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 11:01 PM

The same people who snigger at "Willie" would probably snigger if the character's name was "Dick" or "Peter". Especially if his last name was "Johnson".


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 11:10 PM

Silly Willie is heard fairly often, directed at children. Pedophilic intent?


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Azizi
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 11:27 PM

Hmmm. I think that nowadays it would be "difficult" [I was going to use another word] to use "pussy" in a song. It probably would be banned from radio & tv, though who knows cause not very much is left to the imagination these days when it comes to the lyrics of "popular" music.

Here's a memory from my past:
More than 50 years ago, when I was in elementary school, older kids than me snickered when this song was sung:

I know a little pussy.
Her coat is silver gray.
She lives down in the meadow
not very far away.
Although she is a pussy,
she'll never be a cat
'cause she's a pussy willow.
Now what do you think of that?
Meow Meow Meow Meow
Now scat!

-snip-

I recall adding "You black rat!" to the end. That was the epitome of my risqueness.

I remember asking somebody why some kids were snickering about that song. Some older kids [6th graders?] clued us "babies" in on the "dirty" meaning of that word. My response probably was "Oh...." I was in the third grade or so. Long long ago.


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: poetlady
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 11:52 PM

I just sing William wherever it doesn't mess up the rhyme and leave it be otherwise.

I find Lover's Ghost a little hard to deal with, myself, what with all the talk about Willie and the cock crowing. The version I know has the line "They kissed, shook hands, and embraced each other/ Until the long night was at an end" in it, too. I'm sure that is exactly what they did. ;)


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 11:58 PM

G'day again,

Artbrooks: Interesting that the 1905 Eng(lish?). Dial(ect?). Dict(ionary). Suppl. 178/2 has: "Willy, the male organ; a slang name for a child's penis" ... yet citations in the sort of things lexicographers read don't appear until 1972! Anyway, this does support the usage on "Saucy Seaside Postcards" ... at least as far back as I surmised.

I think our GUEST: Vielleuse can safely take it that there is no obvious "intentional double entendre" in the song quoted ... and will have to decide how much sense the audience may be accorded.

Regards,

Bob


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Flash Company
Date: 06 Feb 06 - 07:09 AM

The saucy seaside postcard by the great Donald McGill came in male and female versions, fat gent 'I had a little Willy......', fat lady 'I had a little Mary......'.
McGill was a very old fashioned guy and he always said that any double meaning was unintentional, and if you chose to find one it was in your mind, not his.

FC


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: jacqui.c
Date: 06 Feb 06 - 08:40 AM

It's not only 'Willie' that brings the sniggers.

I sang 'The Trees Do Grow High' at one gathering and got loud sniggers from certain audience members for the line 'I watched the young boys a playing with their ball'. Problem was, the sniggerers were dyed in the wool folkies.

There does seem to have been a language shift, unfortunately. It's such a shame, as there are now a number of good songs, worth singing, where the audience do have to be considered before you start, if you want the song to be taken on its merits rather than as a bawdy comic song.


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Flash Company
Date: 06 Feb 06 - 09:34 AM

Another problem is singers who are prepared to emphasise the possible double meaning to get a laugh. Once heard this done on 'The Banks of the Ohio':-
I held a knife close to her breast,
And closely to her bosom pressed,
She grabbed my..... sorry!
She cried 'Oh Willie.....

As I say, it got a laugh, but at what expense?

FC


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Ian
Date: 06 Feb 06 - 11:24 AM

In the Trees they do grow;
I always understood it to be the boys were playing at the ball.


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 06 Feb 06 - 11:30 AM

..there is a child between my two sides
Between my willy and eye...

I always wondered what "false food rage" was, perhaps being offered a Big Muck.


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Feb 06 - 12:26 PM

Language theives have also taken "gay" and used it in it's new context which frequently screws up songs I loved to sing but don't anymore.
There must be hundreds of lines with gay as a keyword like:-
"a sailor gay I chanced to stray" from Just as the Tide was Flowing or Matty Groves "how do you like my lady gay who lies in your arms asleep" both lines hijacked.


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: TheBigPinkLad
Date: 06 Feb 06 - 12:29 PM

There's that line in Lisa Lindsay that gets a giggle nowadays:

So she's kilted her coats of green satin,
She's kilted them up tae her knee,
And she's off wi' Lord Ronald McDonald
His bride and his darling tae be.


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: GUEST,vielleuse
Date: 06 Feb 06 - 02:52 PM

Yes, poetlady's got it really - it's the combination of willies AND cocks that does for that song. I can accept that Willy was not a double entendre until fairly recently - what about cocks though? I know that the, er, gendered use of the word comes from the "tap" sense, as in stopcock.

It's the premature cockcrow issue that makes me suspicious, in the context of the song. On the other hand, I've got it in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (eds R Vaughan-Williams and AL Lloyd), which suggests that R Vaughan-Williams and A L Lloyd didn't think it was meant as smutty. I guess... or that it was 1959 and they could get away with it by then.

Also, people probably shouldn't snigger, but they do, and I would rather not be the cause.


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: GUEST,vielleuse
Date: 06 Feb 06 - 02:56 PM

PS forgot to say that google unearths an article in "Sing Out" magazine about singer Bill Jones dealing with the issue by changing all the cocks to larks.


cached page


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Amos
Date: 06 Feb 06 - 03:02 PM

Well, if it was an intentional bawdy line, with a wink in it, then sing the damn thing with a wink it, and damn the Grundies and the titllators.

:D


A


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: TinkerandCrab
Date: 06 Feb 06 - 04:28 PM

I understand an unwillingness to be laughed at, but it all gets me so grumpy. Why should gigglers rule us all? It feels like pandering... I work at a living history museum, and in October we do a farm program for school children. We had this new staff member once, and he refused to tell the children he was taking around the farm that the tool he was holding up to show them was called a 'hoe', because of more modern associations with that word-sound. He called it a 'spade' instead, and it was so clearly NOT a spade! (In the 1960's and '70's he would have been more reluctant to use *that* particular word, especially since many of our school children are African American). So here was this guy actually giving out *false* information to school children on an educational trip just so as to avoid being laughed at. My point is, all of this lyric editing can go too far, and you can't let silly people form a tyranny. Granted, sometimes I am in a silly mood myself and laughter isn't always bad...

Anyway, my advice to GUEST:v is this: suck it up and sing the original lyric. If people giggle, then let them. Maybe talk to the audience a little about how language changes over time. Folk songs, IMO, are *supposed* to make you think about those things, teach you about life in the past. A song with the word "cock" in it reminds us of the agrarian backgrounds most of these traditional songs have, makes us think about the difference between our lives and theirs, as well as the similarities.

Sorry if I sound like an old grumpy-puss... I know all my advice is easier said than done. I must confess, there are some days at my job where I really have to take a deep breath and brace myself for when I have to do a butter churning demonstration for middle-schoolers... I've had too many thirteen-year-olds sniggering and heard them in their purposely too-loud whispers going, "ooh! harder! faster!" as I'm trying to get stubborn cream to congeal. Being strong isn't always easy...

And I'll leave with this:

"The owl looked up to the stars above
And sang to a small guitar
'Oh lovely pussy, oh pussy my love!
What a beatiful pussy you are, you are, you are!
What a beautifual pussy you are!'"

--Catherine


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 06 Feb 06 - 07:24 PM

G'day again vielleuse,

"... changing all the cocks to larks"

          ... and we won't go into the symbolism attached to larks ...

"The lark in the morning, he rise from the nest,
And comes home in the evening, with the dew on his breast."

Honi soit qui mal y pense ... and we can't be endlessly pandering to those who rob us of our heritage of songs and literature by their prurient corruption of the language.

Regards,

Bob


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 07 Feb 06 - 11:40 AM

Seems to me that the unfortunate, sniggery connotation may be defused by the singer in his/her introduction to the song.

In introducing what I know as The Grey Cock (referred to as Lover's Ghost above), I'm thinking of a part of the introduction being some reference to the rooster (what was often in those days referred to as the cock) crowing the approach of dawn, and the dawn being the time when spirits and ghosts must be away. So the word "cock" has been introduced in proper context, not as a surprise in the midst of the song, and when the word comes up in the singing there's not a sense of what I'll call "context contrast", where the first meaning that occurs to the listener is the sniggery one.

I think the same thing could well work with "Willie", pre-loading the listener with the appropriate meaning.

Does that make sense to anyone but me?

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: GUEST,Joe_F
Date: 07 Feb 06 - 10:04 PM

Oddly (in view of its combining two very natural metaphors), the use of "cock" for penis is fairly recent as such things go. The OED has one quot. from 1618, but it seems not to have become widespread until the 19th century. Applied to a man, it seems never to have been an insult like "prick", but a compliment, in allusion to a cock's fighting spirit. (Such surnames as Cox, Babcock, & Wilcox are derived from nicknames incorporating that usage.)

--- Joe Fineman    joe_f@verizon.net

||: Beside myself is too close for comfort. :||


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Midchuck
Date: 07 Feb 06 - 10:37 PM

Mizchuck wanted us to write a fake Victorian ballad entitled "He Was a Rake, and She Was a Ho(e)." So we agreed that we would, and never did.

Peter.


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 08 Feb 06 - 11:10 AM

Sort of like,

"He was a Rake and she was a Ho(e), Honey, Honey
He was a Rake and she was a Ho(e), Babe"
??

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 08 Feb 06 - 11:45 AM

Is this why so many people snigger when they hear the name George W Bush?
Bush being a common UK euphemism for a ladies' 'front bottom', another euphemism in itself of course. AKA beaver in the US.
Giok


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 08 Feb 06 - 12:16 PM

In Mexico, a common phrase meaning to have sex (translated) is 'Wet the brush.'


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Subject: help from the OED
From: TinaP
Date: 08 Feb 06 - 01:05 PM

The Oxford English Dictionary online says:
    2. slang. An infantile name for the penis. Also Comb., as willy-warmer.
1905 Eng. Dial. Dict. Suppl. 178/2 Willy, the male organ; a slang name for a child's penis. Cum., Wm. 1972 Listener 22 June 841/3 The gallant soldier-boys are afflicted with �syph, darling� (�their willies rot away�). 1975 Observer 7 Dec. 27/3 Joky gifts are speechlessly embarrassing; this season's dud is a woolly willy-warmer. 1977 J. WILSON Making Hate ix. 113 A younger male [baboon]..fingered its crimson penis... �It's playing with its willie!� Nicky squealed. 1985 P. ANGADI Governess x. 93 We used to hold each other's willies... We didn't know about sex then.

Earliest found reference is 1905.
From your friendly librarian, Tina


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: GUEST,khandu
Date: 08 Feb 06 - 01:08 PM

"Kissing Willie" (Ian Anderson)

Breaking hearts in a market town. She eats filet of sole
and washes it down with sparkling wine.
Nice girl, but a bad girl's better. Qualifies in both ways
to my mind. But now she's kissing Willie.

She shows a leg --- shows it damn well. Knows how to drive a man
right back to being a child.
Well, she's a --- nice girl, but her bad girl's better. I can read
it in her cheating eyes and know that in a while --- Well,
she'll be kissing Willie. (My best friend, Willie.)

Willie stands and Willie falls. Willie bangs his head
behind grey factory walls.
She's a --- nice girl, but her bad girl's better. Me and Willie
just can't help come, when she calls.
Now she's kissing Willie. (My best friend, Willie.)


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: GUEST,vielleuse
Date: 08 Feb 06 - 04:00 PM

Well the notes in the Penguin Book of English Folk Song say "The idea that such revenants must go again 'from the world of pity to the world without pity' when the birds cry at dawn is an ancient folklore notion that has spread from the Orient, through the Balkans, as far west as Ireland." Which is interesting in itself, and suggests the double entendre thing is a red herring.

My copy of the book is the actual 1959 version (thank you Granny), but I think the updated version has expanded notes on the songs. Has anyone got it and if so what does it say? Oh, it's now called "Classic English Folk Songs".


link


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 08 Feb 06 - 04:17 PM

The revision by Malcolm Douglas contains the same sentence quoted above.
Malcolm's additions suggest that the supernatural elements are relatively recent accretions. He comments on the broadside song, "Willy-O," and adds a verse sung by Mrs. Costello, but left out in the quoted text.


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Subject: RE: Double entendre or language shift?
From: GUEST,David Ingerson who has apparently lost his c
Date: 08 Feb 06 - 05:19 PM

Dave, Your suggestion above, of pre-loading the audience with the appropriate mind-set, is very effective. It is frequently used by good teachers to put the coming lesson (no pun intended) into a context the students can relate to. A short intro to a song you are performing can bring a fuller understanding to the audience--and greater appreciation, too.

Great idea!

Cheers,

David


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