Appalachia Rhymes

Yankee Doodle Dandy

Yankee doodle rhyme

Yankee Doodle come to town,
Riding on a pony.
Stuck a feather in his cap,
And called it macaroni.

I remember this rhyme as being a celebratory chant of sorts in Mrs. Sult’s second grade classroom at Martins Creek Elementary. Actually a lot of the rhymes we’ve been discussing over the last several months take me back to her classroom. A lover of rhymes and poems she must have been.

According to the book Heavy Words Lightly Thrown The Reason Behind The Rhyme written by Chris Roberts, the earliest mention of Yankee Doodle comes to us from 1768 when a Boston periodical mentioned the song as being a popular tune of the time.

The book also tells the rhyme was a favorite mocking tool of British soldiers in the Revolutionary War, until the Americans began using the rhyme as a chant for themselves-even singing the rhyme as the British surrendered at the end of the war.

In a vague sense, I always knew the rhyme was connected to the days of the Revolution; however I never understood how the macaroni part came into play. Of course in my mind I pictured the macaroni we eat today. The book Heavy Words Lightly Thrown The Reason Behind The Rhyme explains the word.

In the early 1770s a group of well to do British males toured around Europe where they picked up a new style of dress. Once they were home in Britain, their styles became all the rage with even clergy taking on some of the new fads. These style changing young men were called Macaroni.

So the British Gentry were taunting the hayseed Americans saying – you Yankee Doodle stuck a feather in your hat and think you’ve reached the highest style of British Macaroni.


*Source: Roberts, Chris. Heavy words lightly thrown: the reason behind the rhyme. Large print ed. Waterville, Me.: Thorndike Press, 2006. Print.

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  • Reply
    Bob in Young Harris
    June 14, 2014 at 11:17 am

    I always thought macaroni referred to the fancy gold braid, medals and such used by the higher ranking military, and perhaps nobility, to adorn their uniforms and adapted by society as stylish. Today we might call it “bling”.

  • Reply
    June 14, 2014 at 10:21 am

    Well, always wondered how a feather and a hat coincided with something eatable , now I know it didn’t.. goes to show you never stop learning…

  • Reply
    June 14, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Hm….Young men traveled Europe, perhaps to Italy where pasta was made, came back and told of the little bent tubes that the Italians had, which would earn them the moniker of ‘Macaroni’ from the stay-at-homes, whether in a derisive or jocular manner. Kinda like we’d use the word “Gad-a-bout” for a person who lived in the frozen North and who had moved South, and liked it, a “Recovering Yankee”.
    Just a theory but worth considering, I think..

  • Reply
    June 14, 2014 at 9:30 am

    Once again – learned something new. Wonder why these dandy young men were called “macaroni” – any connection with Italy . . . ?

  • Reply
    June 14, 2014 at 9:02 am

    Thanks for explaining the “macaroni” thing, Tipper – it’s nice to finally have it make sense!

  • Reply
    Steve in Tn
    June 14, 2014 at 8:57 am

    Thanks. This was the first song I learned when I started mandolin and am glad I now know what it means. I will play it again today.

  • Reply
    June 14, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Ah! Yes! I always wondered about the macaroni part. Now I have a good explanation. I also remember this rhyme from childhood, but again the history part was as important to me then, just the rhyming part was fun to sing. Thanks for the info. Happy Flag Day to all!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 14, 2014 at 8:07 am

    I remember this vaguely too, Interesting how works meanings change.

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