Barrelhouse Words: A Blues Dialect Dictionary by Stephen Calt

By Stephen Calt

This interesting compendium explains the main strange, imprecise, and curious phrases and expressions from classic blues song. using either documentary facts and important interviews with a couple of now-deceased musicians from the Nineteen Twenties and '30s, blues student Stephen Calt unravels the nuances of greater than twelve hundred idioms and correct or position names chanced on on oft-overlooked "race documents" recorded among 1923 and 1949. From "aggravatin' papa" to "yas-yas-yas" and every thing in among, this actually specific, racy, and compelling source decodes a missed speech for normal readers and researchers alike, delivering priceless information regarding black language and American slang.

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Black and tan country stood for the South (F&H, 1890), while going South was a conventional term for performing oral sex. Black Belt, the “Boy, you know where I’m from? ” —Lucille Bogan, “Baking Powder Blues,” 1933 The prairie region extending from the south central part of Alabama to northeastern Mississippi. Booker T. Washington wrote of it: “So far as I can learn, the term was first used to designate a part of the country which was distinguished by the colour of the soil.  .  . to designate the counties where the black people outnumber the white” (Up from Slavery, 1901).

Jack Kelly, “Men Fooler Blues,” 1939 Of itself, hog-eye is a slang expression for the vagina (ATS; Lighter, 1997). 26 blu e s, t o h ave th e bobo Your face all wrinkled, your back’s all bare If you ain’t doin’ a bobo, what’s your head doin’ there? —Tampa Red, “The Dirty Dozen No. 2,” 1930 An act of oral sex, probably used in reference to male activity. ” boggy I will cut your kindlin’, I will build your fire I will tote your water, from the boggy bayou. —Charlie Patton, “Heart Like Railroad Steel,” 1929 Swampy, a standard English locution (OED).

This dance, however, is of doubtful authenticity, and boogie woogie was more likely a veiled term for sexual intercourse with no vernacular application to dancing. The term and its cognates form the most flexible sexual slang invoked on race recording, variously connoting either sexual activities or male/female sex organs, often according to context. Although boogie woogie had no discernable musical pedigree or connotations, jazz enthusiasts who were taken with “Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie” misconstrued it as a musical term, associated with a stylized piano instrumental featuring a “walking bass” line, in which form it entered mainstream English after being promoted in a 1938 New York concert.

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