July 6, 2018

Around the Fourth of July, we hear a lot of songs about all the great things about America: “God Bless America,” “God Bless The USA,” “California Girls”... But before them all, even before “The Star-Spangled Banner,” there was the original American patriotic song, “Yankee Doodle.”

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Since 1776, the song “Yankee Doodle” has been as much a symbol of America as the flag.  Every child learns it from the cradle. But many of us grew up without ever knowing what it really means.  Like, why did he call his cap macaroni?  Did he use cheese for hair mousse?  Well, I’ll finally give you the answers to those questions and more.


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“Yankee Doodle” actually dates back long before 1776.  It most likely started as a German nursery rhyme, since “dudel” is an Old German word for “fool.”  It first became associated with America when British soldiers made up their own lyrics to it to mock the ragtag American Revolutionaries.  That baffling line – “stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni” – only makes sense when you know that a macaroni wig was one of those ridiculously large powdered wigs that dandies of the time wore.  The Brits were ridiculing Americans as a bunch of hayseeds, so dumb they’d think sticking a feather in their hat would make them look sophisticated.  Imagine a Huffington Post article about Trump voters from Alabama, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of just how much arrogant condescension they intended. 

Unfortunately for the British, it turned out wars weren’t settled according to who had the spiffiest uniforms.  Those unfashionable Americans were fighting for their homes, their families and their freedom.  So they did what Americans have done ever since: they took the ridicule aimed at them, threw it back in the faces of those who mocked them, and got the last laugh. 

The Americans took the song “Yankee Doodle” that was meant to belittle them and adopted it as their anthem.  They marched to it in the streets, sang it in bars, and made up their own new lyrics to promote the cause of freedom and glorify leaders like General Washington, “upon his strapping stallion.” It wasn’t long before the British learned to dread the sound of that tune, especially when it was played on a fife and drum, accompanied by American militiamen.  A Boston newspaper reported that Minutemen who captured two British officers forced them to dance to “Yankee Doodle” until they collapsed.  After that, the Brits admitted that that mocking little song didn’t sound so sweet to them anymore. 


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Well, now you know how “Yankee Doodle” came to be the unofficial American battle anthem that later inspired another great patriotic song for this time of year, George M. Cohan’s “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”  As Cohan proudly sang, “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy…Born on the Fourth of July.” 

Of course, Cohan was actually born on the third of July.  But that’s another story for another day. 


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Comments 1-8 of 8

  • Carl Williams

    07/17/2018 03:06 PM

    Hello Mike, yes we need to consider changing from income tax to a "transaction tax" like the "Fair Tax" but we need to carry it further than that described by the "Fair Tax". It needs to cover all financial transactions including the stock market and currency exchange market. By doing so the net tax to individuals and corporations will be minimized. If you or someone in your organization have interest, I have prepared a scenario that described this concept along with the advantages and benefits.

  • Paul E Guerin

    07/08/2018 04:02 AM

    Re: Yankee Doodle. From page 418 of the book, "Washington, A Life" by Ron Chernow; Penguin Books, Copyright 2010; Paragraphs 2 & 3: In the shadow of a redoubt near the river, the articles of surrender were signed at eleven A.M. on October 19 (1781). At two P.M. the French and American troops lined up on opposite sides of a lane stretching a half mile long. Baron von Closen noted the contrast between the "splendor" of the French soldiers, with their dress swords and polished boots, and the Americans "clad in small jackets of white cloth, dirty and ragged, and a number of them . . . almost barefoot." (Chapter 33 footnote # 61) Led by drummers beating a somber march, thousands of defeated British and Hessian soldiers trudged heavily between the allied columns, their colors tightly folded. As they ran this gauntlet, they had to pass by every allied soldier. Legend claims that British fifes and drums played "The World Turned Upside Down." In another reminder of allied revenge for Charleston, General Benjamin Lincoln, who had been refused the honors of war there, led the procession. Even at the end the British evinced a petty, spiteful attitude toward the Americans, gazing only at the French soldiers until Lafayette prodded the band to strike up "Yankee Doodle," forcing the conquered army to acknowledge the hated Americans. At the end of the line, the British soldiers emerged into an open field, where they tossed their weapons contemptuously onto a stockpile, trying to smash them. Then they filed back past the double column of victors. The entire wonder of the American Revolution was visible for all to see. It wasn't the well-dressed French Army who were the true victors of the day, but the weather beaten, half-clad American troops. Para # 3: Washington and Rochambeau waited patiently on horseback at the end of the line. For the occasion, Washington had chosen his favorite steed, Nelson. In yet another snub to the Americans, Cornwallis deemed it beneath his dignity to attend the ceremony and, delivered the lame excuse that he was indisposed, sent Brigadier General Charles O'Hara in his place. When O'Hara rode up to Rochambeau and proffered Cornwallis's sword, the French general motioned toward Washington as the proper recipient. Washington had no intention of accepting the sword from Cornwallis's deputy and, with his usual phlegm, asked O'Hara if he would be good enough to hand it to his American counterpart, General Lincoln. The British behavior at Yorktown, so graceless and uncouth, was the last time Americans had to suffer such condescension. -----And there you have it! I took typing at Hope High School during the school year 64/65 from Mrs. Riddling.


    07/08/2018 12:00 AM


  • Eileen M Robinson

    07/07/2018 03:03 PM

    love the trivia on YANKEE DOODLE .
    Now just to remember it all. . . God bless MIKE.

  • Ron Mullins

    07/06/2018 08:57 PM

    Thanks for this tidbit.....News to me...

  • Sydney Corbett

    07/06/2018 05:51 PM

    oops--never mind on the request for a share to FB click--I didn't notice it earlier. Thanks!!

  • Sydney Corbett

    07/06/2018 05:49 PM

    This is delightful! I love background information on phrases that are part of our heritage. I knew there must be a "story" behind these lyrics, but never found the time to look it up. Thanks!!
    I wish you'd put a "share to Facebook" click button.

  • Gary Heckman

    07/06/2018 10:32 AM

    Thanks Governor for the information of "Yankee Doodle Dandy". One of my favorite songs. Every year I look forward to watching the movie. God Bless America and also God Bless You! I look forward to reading your comments everyday and also share them with my friends and family. What a beautiful daughter you and your wife can be so proud of. America loves Shara.