Yankee Doodle went to town
Riding on a pony.
Stuck a feather in his hat,
And called it Macaroni
How did he get to be a Yankee?? And what did it have to do with macaroni??!
Yanke Surname Definition: (Dutch) Descendant of little Jan (gracious gift of Jehovah); one who came from Holland; a name sometimes applied to a stranger.
The Online Etymology Dictionary gives Yankee its origin as around 1683, attributing it to English colonists insultingly referring to Dutch colonists (especially freebooters). Linguist Jan de Vries notes that there was mention of a pirate named Dutch Yanky in the 17th century.
From the mid-1750s – even still today – it was the custom of the upper British crust to ‘Do The Continent’ when they came of age. Starting in Spain or France, they would party their way though Germany and Poland, and end up in Italy. Italy was considered the epicenter of society and fashion.
Young English men became enamored of anything Italian – better than what was back in frumpy old Britain. Costume balls were common, and clothing became more and more gaudy and ostentatious. Of course, “everything Italian” did not usually extend to actually learning the language.
After they returned home, they would wax eloquent about Italian food and wine, the flamboyant clothing, the buildings, and the parties. It became common to refer to “everything Italian” in verbal shorthand as simply Macaroni.
Some English in the New World (Remember, there were no ‘Americans’ yet) with less wealth and far less chance to party in Italy – were Yankees. If they had servants and slaves, and were ‘idle,’ – they were a Doodle. They displayed their wealth by being able to ride a fine horse – pony. If they wanted to emulate their British cousins, they would adorn and ornament their clothes. They would stick a jaunty feather in an otherwise simple, basic hat, and pretend that it was as glitzy as any of that Italian Macaroni.
So, this nonsense little poem has nothing to do with college survival food. Instead, it is a reminder of how the early American common folk viewed those who claimed to be their betters. I’d better make some mac-and-cheese for lunch. 😉 😆