Mudcat Café message #3894509 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #163299   Message #3894509
Posted By: Howard Jones
18-Dec-17 - 09:58 AM
Thread Name: Jingle Bells Originally Performed in Minstrel Show
Subject: RE: Jingle Bells Originally Performed in Minstrel Show
The weakest part of the professor's argument, it seems to me, is the claim that 'upsot' marks it out as an attempt to sound 'southern'. The word can be found in a number of references from the period, many of which have nothing to do with the American South.

In other works, whilst the word may have occurred in southern black dialect it was not exclusive to it, and was simply a widespread non-standard variant of "upset". The same goes for "Thro' " and "Tho't ", which are both fairly common poetic devices. "Tho't" isn't even the original spelling, if this reference is correct:

There were far more obvious ways of indicating 'Negro dialect' than these, which the composer himself had used only a three or four years after writing 'Jingle Bells'. If that was the intention I wonder why it was not re-written in more obvious dialect before being published in print, especially as that publication seems to have been directly linked with its first stage performance at a minstrel show?

Whether the song was intentionally written as a minstrel piece or for wider use, and was simply taken up by what was then possibly most popular form of public entertainment hardly matters - unlike some more obviously minstrel songs, the song itself contains no racist references or language and any racist aspect can only be inferred from a long-forgotten context. Which is of course what the professor herself is saying.