Music

Yankee Doodle’s “lyrics were venomous”

The lyrics were venomous. “Yankee” was a withering word for a colonist. A “doodle” was a rube or a fool, and the doodle in this song rides a pony, instead of a horse, which makes him ridiculous. And why is the titular bumpkin heading to town? He hopes to become one of those hyperstylized fellows known as a macaroni.

Here’s the clincher: The doodle can’t pull it off. He thinks that sticking a feather in his cap will suffice to join Britain’s most effete club. In reality, he needs an elaborate costume. The subtext — actually, it might just be the text — is that this quintessential American is a homosexual so daft that he can’t even demonstrate his homosexuality.

David Segal, “That Diss Song Known As ‘Yankee Doodle’”, The New York Times (2 July 2017), SR6.