Tag Archives: Southern states

Cecil Sharp on Appalachian Americans

I may have referred here to Cecil Sharp, the English folklorist who visited Virginia just over a century ago. He, along with his American assistant,  wanted to collect any folk songs of English origin that may still have been extant in that part of the country, and he found a great many old English ballads that were still preserved amongst the people of the Appalachians. Keep in mind that this is the part of the South that is said to have been settled mostly by Celtic  ‘Scots-Irish’ or Irish people, so this would seem an odd place to go looking for English folk songs and lore. Still, Sharp and his assistant were not disappointed in their quest, and Sharp wrote of the similarities between the rural Appalachian folk and their counterparts back in England.

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This blog points out that Sharp’s descriptions stand in stark contrast to the stereotypes of people from that region that are popularly believed today. Here’s another site which is a good source of information about the subject.

As I love traditional music and all sorts of folklore I am fascinated by the story of Cecil Sharp and his mission to collect and help preserve the musical traditions of Appalachia. His work led to a cooperative effort between traditional music scholars and musicians on both sides of the Atlantic, in order to keep these traditions alive.

The demographic changes that are being imposed on even the more remote areas of the Southern U.S. will no doubt contribute to a weakening and possible loss of the culture and heritage overall. It is just not true that a culture can be preserved by just anybody; a culture is the product of a specific people, an extended kin-group who are genetically from the same source.  If a culture is a disembodied thing that can be transferred to any random ‘recipient’ then it is a museum piece, no longer a living tradition.

I hate to make this political, but there’s just no way around it. A people must be preserved in order for their culture to survive and continue.

 

 

The ‘English diet’

It’s pretty rare that the British press ever has anything positive to say about anything traditionally English, so this article from 2011 is a rarity. According to this, the ‘English diet could save thousands of Welsh, Scottish and Irish lives.’ Apparently, some think the English diet is healthier than the diet followed by the average Welsh, Scots, or Irish household.

The British media, like the American media, are always scolding and nagging readers about ‘eating healthier’, and if anything, the UK media are worse for their nanny state meddling in people’s diets and health choices. It’s bad enough that the government(s) and their media arm are sticking their noses where they don’t rightfully belong — government is not meant to involve itself in what we eat; at least in the U.S. our government is limited, strictly speaking, to certain functions — at which it is currently derelict (such as enforcing our borders) and it has no business preaching to us about what we eat. But the media does that constantly, and worse, they are behind the times as to the ‘information’ with which they lecture us. Example: their incorrect, and since discredited ideas about the benefits of ‘low-fat’ diets. But they persist in nagging us about eating low-salt diets as well.

Most of us remember that the older generations, our grandparents if not our parents, ate diets that are now condemned by the health establishment as bad and unhealthy — yet those older generations often seemed to live longer, healthier lives than today’s health-obsessed people. My Southern grandparents, of English descent, ate a breakfast that was almost identical to the traditional ‘full English’ breakfast, pictured here. Most people today would be horrified, probably calling it a ‘heart attack waiting to happen’, though my grandmother lived a healthy life, dying at age 94; her brother died at 105. And they ate this kind of diet.

If you read the article I link to above, about the ‘full English breakfast’ you will notice that the writer says, of the obligatory tomato included on the plate,

“Much like the beans, the tomato may seem like an optional garnish; I assure you, it is not. The sweetness and acidity that come from a cooked tomato goes a long way in cutting the fattiness that is inherent in the rest of the plate.”

I was amused by that; the older generations in my family always said that the tomato was there to “cut the grease” in the rest of the meal. Even centuries after our family came to this country, those sayings still persist. But yes, the tomato does seem to ‘cut the grease.’

It is interesting that some of the culinary and dietary habits came to this country, though in this country,  at least in the South, other breakfast items like ‘grits’ were added to the breakfast menu. I don’t think that particular food has British antecedents, especially as corn (Indian corn, or maize to some in the old country) was a New World food.

As to whether the English diet is healthier than that eaten elsewhere in the UK, I can’t speak to that; I found, in Ireland, that the people ate similar diets to that of most English people, with some minor variations — like brown bread with breakfast, although the Irish do like their ‘fry’ for breakfast at times too.

It does seem that on both sides of the Atlantic, the nanny state governments want to dictate or control what we eat, and while they claim to be motivated by concern for our health and well-being, at the same time they are feeding us GMO foods, and in this country, removing ‘place of origin’ labeling on some foods, and importing much of our food and medicines (even prescription medications) from third-world countries with very poor safety standards, and histories of adulterated and toxic products. So how concerned are ‘our’ governments, really, about our health and safety?

And it does seem as though they are aiming to make vegans of us all, eventually, and to habituate us to a ‘third-world’ style diet, emphasizing the exotic ethnic foods that the many immigrants have introduced into our Anglosphere countries. Out with the old, and in with the new, regardless of the dubious health benefits of these new foods.

Could it not be that our bodies are genetically programmed to do well on a certain type of diet, a diet which includes meat and dairy and what the questionable ‘experts’ call unhealthy amounts of fat? Our Northern European ancestors seem to have done pretty well on that diet, and yet we are constantly told we should stop eating it.  I suppose this article about the relative health benefits of the English diet would not be written in 2017. In the years since it appeared, the health ‘experts’ haven’t shown much sign of revising their ‘low fat, low salt’ dogma.

As for me, I prefer to go with what works, and what was good for the older generations is good enough for me, I think.

‘Don’t say you are English’

The following appears on this website, credited as shown below, apparently anonymously written.

JUST DON’T SAY YOU’RE ENGLISH
(Found beside company photocopier)

Goodbye to my England – So long my old friend
Your days are now numbered, being brought to an end
To be Scottish, Irish or Welsh, that’s just fine
But don’t say you’re English, that’s way out of line.

The French and the Germans may call themselves such,
As may Norwegians, the Swedes and the Dutch,
You can say you are Russian, or maybe a Dane.
But don’t say you’re English, ever again

At Broadcasting House that word is taboo
In Brussels they’ve scrapped it, in Parliament too,
Even schools are affected, staff do as they’re told,
They mustn’t teach children about the England of old

Writers like Shakespeare, Milton and Shaw
Do the pupils not learn about them anymore?
How about Agincourt, Hastings, Arnhem or Mons
When England lost hosts of her very brave sons?

We are not Europeans how can we be?
Europe is miles away, over the sea,
We’re the English from England, let’s all be proud-
Stand up and be counted –  shout it out loud!

Let’s tell our government – and Brussels too –
We’re proud of our heritage and the Red, White and Blue.
Fly the flag of St. George or the Union Jack.
Let the world know – WE WANT OUR ENGLAND BACK!

I have also found this poem somewhere else, credited to Terry Ogelthorpe. Whether the writer is anonymous or Terry Ogelthorpe,  it seems to represent a very real sentiment. We don’t hear or read much about English nationalism on this side of the Atlantic, so apparently the  unspoken rule against identifying as English has been pretty effective. In some cases it’s just ingrained habit, maybe, with most people accepting the common practice of using ‘Britain’ or ‘British’ interchangeably with ‘England’ and ‘English.’ But the terms are not the same, are they.

Here in the United States we have something of this ‘don’t say you are English’ habit, and a similar carelessness with using the terms ‘British’ and ‘English’. But for many Americans of English descent, we’ve got used to thinking of ourselves as ‘just Americans’, or identifying with our regional origin, as Southern people have traditionally done. Yet once upon a time many Southrons, if not most, explicitly spoke of their Anglo-Saxon origins.

Obviously, though, on both sides of the Atlantic, it just isn’t “in” or it simply isn’t “done” to openly say we are of English origin. And that’s more than a shame.

 

 

English dialect words in Virginia

As I’ve said, the English language in all its various dialects interests me, especially as it illustrates that aspect of our heritage from England. Yesterday I posted an excerpt from a book called The Word-Book of Virginia Folk-Speech, from 1899.

Here, the writer lists some examples of Wiltshire and Cornwall dialect words found in use in Virginia.

Wiltshire words in Virginia speech_wordbookofvirgin00gree_0013

Anyone familiar with the various Southern American dialects of English, (at least as they existed before all the demographic and cultural changes that have swept over the South) will recognize many of these usages. I can pick out several of them in the above excerpt. For instance, the word ‘yellow’ pronounced as ‘yalla.’ Granted, it was mostly rural and older folk who retained this into our era, but my grandparents and their generation spoke that way. Likewise, the pronunciation of the word ‘seven’ as something like ‘seb’m‘. It can’t have been uncommon in England, as I’ve heard it from older speakers in the UK, and they were educated speakers, by the way. Same with the word ‘eleven’ as ‘eleb’m‘, roughly.

Why do I bring up these quirks? I think it’s important to point them out, not just for curiosity’s sake, but because far too many Southron people have been persuaded that everything about the Southern American dialects represents ‘ignorance’ on the part of Southron folk. Many of these old expressions and pronunciations were not ‘ignorant’ or the result of a lack of education; they were simply hold-overs from the dialect(s) our ancestors spoke when they arrived from England 400+ years ago. Some of those usages have long since died out in the UK, as language change does happen, but that does not mean that the older usages that survived here were in error. They were simply archaic, from the viewpoint of our cousins back  in the mother country.

In the quote above, another odd pronunciation in Virginia (and in my Texas childhood) was the word ‘rinse’ pronounced as ‘rench.’ My mother, being from the North, disdained this kind of ‘mispronunciation,’ seeing it as backward. Sadly many Northern people believe that the Southron dialect is a sign of low intelligence. Maybe if such people recognized that the different usages are simply ‘old-fashioned’ usages, or dialect variances, they might not be so disdainful.

The second paragraph in the quote mentions the habit of dropping the final ‘g’ in words ending in ‘-ing’. In my experience this is not a Southernism but is widespread across the United States and Canada. It’s also heard on the other side of the Atlantic.  (I remember the carping American media raking Sarah Palin over the coals for “dropping her ‘g’s”, as if a large proportion of Americans don’t do the same thing, regardless of regional origin or level of education. Funny how snobbish the self-important ‘journalistic’ classes can be.)

Books have been written about the Southern American dialect, or dialects. I can’t do the subject justice here, but I will return to it at times. It’s important for us to know that so much of what we take for granted about our culture, including our language, did not originate here. It is part of our ‘old inheritance’, and knowing these things should enhance our sense of identity, and remind us of our origins in Britain.

 

 

The early settlers of Virginia

From The Word-Book of Virginia Folk-Speech, by Bennett Wood Green, 1899

”We find many of the men connected with the early settlement of Virginia from Southwest England.  Of course there were many from London, Kent and other parts, but there were Cabot, Raleigh, Drake, the Gilberts, Somers, Basset, Botetourt, Cary, and others of the principal men from the Southwest.

Moreover, the west, above all districts of England, seems to have had a numerous gentry bound by constant intermarriages into a great clan, strongly animated by local pride and a peculiar love of country. These are striking characteristics of Virginians. In Virginia, essentially the whole of the white blood is English, that has been on the soil for over two hundred years.  It is not believed that there is any body of folk of as purely English stock as the white population of Virginia, and the States descended from here; and it amounts to about three millions of people, and there is scarcely any admixture of other blood. Nothing in their history shows the least falling off from the qualities that have always distinguished their race in all times and all places. The Virginian has a good opinion of himself, is calm, well-balanced, is self-reliant and has the English quality of not being afraid to take responsibility.”

[Emphasis above is mine.]

Of course, the above was written 118 years ago, and the Virginia of that day is not the Virginia of the 21st century. But it’s useful to look back at the origins of Virginia, and by extension, the rest of the South (‘and the States descended from here’), and to read that the original settlers of Virginia were overwhelmingly English by ancestry.

I plan to return to this book in future posts about the English language as it developed in the Virginia colony.

 

On the English migration westward

“With few exceptions, the most distinguished families in the Colonial history of Virginia were founded in the Seventeenth century. It was in this century that there emigrated from England the Armisteads, Banisters, Bassetts, Blands, Bollings, Beverleys, Burwells, Byrds, Carys, Corbins, Carters, Claibornes, Custises, Fauntleroys, Fitzhughs, Harrisons, Lees, Lightfoots, Ludwells, Masons, Pages, Peytons, Randolphs, Robinsons, Scarboroughs, Spencers, Thoroughgoods, Washingtons and Wormleys — families that represented the nearest approach to an organized aristocracy which North America has seen, and which constituted in their association with the eighteenth, if not with the seventeenth century, the stateliest social body known so far in American history.

The fundamental influence leading the founders of these families and families of equal social standing in the Colony to emigrate from England to Virginia was the active and enterprising spirit which has pre-eminently distinguished the English race immemorially.

[…] The history of no other nation furnishes a movement of population comparable in magnitude and duration with that which led to the settlement of the whole Atlantic seaboard from Maine to Georgia. Vast as it was, it was only the beginning of the English colonization. When the Revolution tore the American communities from the side of the Mother Country, the flood of English emigration westward slackened and practically died away, but before another hundred years had passed it had spread itself far into the Australasian seas; new English cities, crowned with all the triumphs of the modern arts, and teeming with a happy and prosperous population, had arisen under the Southern cross; from Table Mountain far beyond the Zambesi, English dominion had broadened out in South Africa; England’s commissioned Viceroy was enthroned at Calcutta, her uncommissioned at Cairo; while in the West, in spite of Saratoga and Yorktown, she still owned half a continent and counted her loyal subjects by the millions. These were the achievements of her sons who had inherited that spirit of enterprise and adventure, not to be daunted by fear of a deadly climate or an Indian foe, which had sustained the souls of men who, before the close of the seventeenth century had hewn down the forests in Eastern Virginia; had brought the land under cultivation; had established homes; had founded a carefully ordered social and political system, and thrown over all the aegis of English Law.”

From Social Life of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century, by Phillip Alexander Bruce, 1907

Puritan descendants in New England?

There’s an idea going around the Internet that the liberal/progressive politics of New England are attributable to the fact that the people there are the descendants of the old Puritan colonists.

This strikes me as incorrect. I’ve long noticed the frequency in New England, even in some rural areas, of surnames which are Irish, French, Italian or Portuguese, when one might expect English surnames to far outnumber them.

Statistics indicate that people of English (presumably Colonial-stock) descent are in a minority in much of New England. The Census records from back in 2000 for the state of Vermont showed that the percentage of people of English descent was 18.4%, followed closely by Irish at 16.4 percent, followed by German and French(Canadian). Obviously in the last couple of decades, mass immigration and the shifting of native-born populations (urban people moving to suburbs or rural areas due to ‘ethnic cleansing’ and other causes) has changed the makeup of many parts of America.

A relevant fact: the scarcity of old-stock ‘Yankee’ Congressmen.

As for New England in general, of the top ten European ancestries in that region, Irish was at the head of the list, with 21.1%. English ancestry was fourth, with a mere 13.7%. Other ethnicities in the top ten included French, Italian, Portuguese, (as I expected) and in the tenth spot, Russian — which I didn’t expect.

13.7% is just not a very significant number.

Yet we have people insisting that the descendants of the old Puritans inhabit New England, and it’s they who are to blame for the politics of that area, including the recent violence at a speech by Charles Murray at a college in Vermont. Why are some people on the right so determined to blame the Puritan influence from centuries ago?

A more plausible explanation, and a simpler one,  would be that as New England received a lot of immigration, starting in the early to mid-19th century, from more ‘diverse’ countries, countries which did not share the English idea of liberty or representative government. Many of the immigrants, who arrived in the Ellis Island era, brought more socialistic ideas. Generally the ethnic groups named in the lists above are groups who tend to have ‘liberal’ beliefs and tend to vote heavily Democratic.

The idea that somehow there is a lingering ‘Puritan’ spirit in New England that explains the politics of that region is absurd. Do the ghosts of the old Puritans haunt the place? Does New England have ‘magic dirt’ that transformed the later ethnic immigrants into leftists?

If we want to find ‘flesh-and-blood’ descendants of those Puritans, we’d have better luck finding them in Utah, for instance, which has the highest percentage of English-descended Americans of any state, according to some information. Many of those people in Utah are in fact direct descendants of colonial stock Puritans; many are descended from Mormons who migrated there in the 19th century.

Actually there is probably a greater percentage of Americans of English descent in parts of the South; that area was spared from mass immigration for a good while. And the South is not known for its liberal politics; quite the contrary.

And no, the Puritans were not of a different ethnicity than the English colonists of the South. This idea that the two groups are different peoples is silly, and I doubt that DNA tests would show any such divide. A case could be made that some of the aristocratic colonists, such as the ‘FFV’, or First Families of Virginia, tended to have more Norman ancestry, but otherwise there is no big genetic gulf between the Northern colonists and the Southern, despite the urban legend to that effect.

Playing ‘pin-the-tail-on-the-Anglo-Saxon’, whether Puritan or otherwise, is so trite, so lazy, and so politically correct. Look instead to the Ellis Island-era immigrant stock in New England to explain the culture and politics there.