Friday, April 16, 2010

Songs of Yesterday: An Appalachian Tragedy

I wonder sometimes at the romanticizing in song and verse of some legendary figures -- it helps to look into the story behind the story. In her "Songs of Yesterday: An Appalachian Tragedy," Jean Hibben explores the back story to the legendary, "Tom Dula" or "Tom Dooley," as he is better known. While none of the characters in this story seem to have any redeeming qualities, a few of the details, after the fact, at least suggest how his life . . . and death might have stirred the imagination of songwriters.

From a genealogical perspective, the alternate pronunciation of the Dula surname strikes a chord. My own Appalachian ancestral name, "Childers," while not ending in "ee" has been altered over the years and is alternately pronounced "Childress," again, this slurring an blurring of speech that sort of flips things around. This pronunciation of the Childers name is so common, in fact, they are used almost interchangeably. In the case of my great-grandmother, even the alternate spelling of the name was used within the family. While all legal documents, including the marriage record, show my great-grandfather's surname as Childers, the headstone of his wife, my great-grandmother, reads "Mattie Childress." Which, in a way, takes us back around to some good advice in considering all things: keep an open mind.

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: These Words Will Grow on You!

Spring is in the air -- or so they say, here in Utah we've had snow for the past several days. Even so, spring is just around the corner. And as our thoughts turn to spring, so we begin to think of spring flowers. In her article, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: These Words Will Grow on You!," Jean Hibben explores the naming of some familiar flowers. It occurred to me that some of the earlier, romantic and yet playful names given for the pansey -- names no longer in use -- might well be names known and used by our ancestors. Likewise, the terms from which some flower names derive such as "cowslip" may have been familiar and made perfect sense to our ancestors, as well.  So might we, after reading this article, be better informed and delighted should we encounter some of these terms in the writings of our ancestor's.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Songs of Yesterday: Danny Boy

It wouldn't be St. Patrick's Day without hearing at least one version of the "Danny Boy," a favorite among Irish and non-Irish alike. In her article, "Songs of Yesterday: Danny Boy," Jean Hibben explores the history of the song, including the perhaps unresolvable issue of the song's age, in addition to its origin, and the supposed meaning of its lyrics. What may be surprising to some is the multi-national history of this revered Irish anthem, which does nothing to reduce its charm.

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Weaponry Wording, Part 2

In her second article on the subject, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles:Weaponry Wordings, Part 2," Jean Hibben presents the origin for a lot of the very pithy words in our vocabulary. Seems the words of weaponry pack a powerful punch, literally and figuratively.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Songs of Yesterday: Glory, Hallelujah! Part 2

In her last article on "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" Jean Hibben presented lyric variations on the original melody written by William Steffe, lyrics that were often crude, prompting Julia Ward Howe to create her more inspirational tribute.  Continuing the story, "Songs of Yesterday: Glory, Hallelujah! Part 2," the author explores the variations in the Howe version, which involves mostly its verses relating to the Civil War. One variation, which changes the lyrics entirely, pays tribute to the women behind the battle lines.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Weaponry Wording, Part 1

In this month's article, Lexicon of Lost Lifestyles: Weaponry Wording, Part 1, Jean Hibben explores terms and phrases handed down from weapons of war. As the author points out, language derived from the use of guns is so common, it even "creeps into the vocabulary of the most sincere pacifist." And that's how it is -- words spill off the tongue without much thought to their origin, but knowing the origin helps us make sense of the language and clarify meanings, to say nothing of helping us "mean what we say and say what we mean."

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Songs of Yesterday: Glory, Hallelujah! Part 1

Which came first the chicken or the egg? It's an old joke, and you might find differences of opinion as to which is the correct answer. You might also get a different opinion if you asked the same question of two very old, yet familiar songs: which came first, "John Brown's Body" or "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"? In her article, "Songs of Yesterday: Glory, Hallelujah! Part 1," Jean Hibben answers the question. Perhaps an even more intriguing question is, which John Brown was the subject of the original lyrics. We think we know, but do we? All this and the story of how the lyrics changed . . . and why, is presented, along with the author performing the song.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Working on the Railroad

What do railroads and baseball have in common? The "doubleheader." In her article, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Working on the Railroad," Jean Hibben examines everyday terms derived from the railroad.. What exactly does it mean to be "railroaded" or to "ride the gravy train? Learning more about the history of words may add a little power to the punch our use of the language.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Songs of Yesterday: How Our Ancestors Sang the Holidays, Part 2

The holiday season is a time of joy. In times of war, on the battlefield and for those at home, the holiday season takes on even greater meaning. In her article, "Songs of Yesterday: How Our Ancestors Sang the Holidays, Part 2," Jean Hibben reflects on holiday songs born of wartime. With emphasis on the song, "Christmas Bells," better known as "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," written during the Civil War by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the author recalls and performs the song, including the more somber verses "almost lost to obscurity."

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Words of Holidays Past

As with so many other things, we take often holiday traditions and practices for granted, seldom stopping to think about their origins. It may also be that some traditions and practices of the past have become antiquated and rarely practiced, caroling from door to door being one example. Our ways of passing the time and socializing and certainly changed. In the article, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Words of Christmas Past," Jean Hibben explores the language of Christmas, clearing up some commonly held misconceptions and, perhaps, bringing a greater sense of meaning to our holiday observations.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Songs of Yesterday: How our Ancestors Sang the Holiday, Part 1

The holiday season is the perfect time to reflect songs our ancestors and to consider their origin. This week, GenWeekly writer, Jean Hibben, known for her musical performances, introduces a new Songs of Yesterday series, with the article "Songs of Yesterday: How our Ancestors Sang the Holiday, Part 1." Full of fun and surprises, the real treat in this series is hearing the author perform the song. Many of the Songs of Yesterday, we might think to be much more dated than they actually are -- have you ever considered the origin of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"? And while many of us decry the commercialism of Christmas and the ever-present Santa Claus, this week's article suggests he may have closer ties to the original spirit of Christmas than one had imagined.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: In Passing, Part III

In her latest article on the uses of death, dead, and dying in everyday language, Jean Hibben suggests many of the phrases and terms we use relating to death "never were alive in the first place." The article, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: In Passing, Part III," the author explores the origin of terms such as a "deadpan, "deadbolt," "deadline" and, as unlikely as it may seem, the word "mortgage." The study of language and root words, in particular, can be entertaining as well as enlightening. 

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