24 May 2019
May 24, 2019

Yankee Doodle

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Yankee Doodle Went to Town
Riding on a Pony
Stuck a Feather in His Hat
And Called it Macaroni!

What the heck does that mean, anyway? It was originally sung by the British during the French and Indian War (the 1750s) as an insult to backward Americans. “Yankee Doodle” was a colonial simpleton. When he rode his pony into town with a feather in his hat, he thought it made him a “Macaroni.” But what was a macaroni?

Well, here’s a cartoon depicting a macaroni. He’s outrageously overdressed and behaves in a similarly outrageous manner. He’s a man who goes beyond the normally accepted standards of fashion, public behavior and manners.

So, the colonists were such dunces that they thought a simple feather in their hats made them a macaroni! They were so stupid they couldn’t even get that right.

In the early battles of the American Revolution, the British made up many verses that were insulting to the colonies and sang them as they marched into battle. But after they were routed at Concord Bridge (after Lexington), the Americans sang it back to taunt them. And this version became popular with American soldiers:

Yankee Doodle is the tune
That we all delight in;
It suits for feasts, it suits for fun,
And just as well for fightin’.

When the British surrendered to General Washington at Yorktown in 1781, they marched past the Americans with their heads turned toward the French instead. Marquis de Lafayette instructed the French fifers and drummers to play, you guessed it, Yankee Doodle as they passed.