Lawdy - possible meanings

Discussion in 'English Only' started by James Brandon, Feb 24, 2006.

  1. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    There is the Paul McCartney song "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" - I was wondering whether any meaning was attached to "lawdy" and/or does it stand for "lady"?

    Below a quote gleaned on the internet, for what it is worth (not my words, I hasten to add): "Cause, you know baby… when I …. Kiss yoooooooooo…. It’s not the same as when yoooooo…..are kissing me……Oh lawdy….”

    Suggestions (and sound tracks) welcome.
     
  2. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I always thought this was a modified version of Lordy.
    No back-up for that, though.
     
  3. TrentinaNE Senior Member

    USA
    English (American)
    You're correct, pan. Perhaps you recall the famous line from Gone with the Wind: "Lawdy, Miz Scarlett, I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no babies!" Lawdy is supposed to approximate the way black slaves in the antebellum South would have pronounced lordy.

    Elizabeth
     
  4. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    Very interesting and the etymology you mention is fascinating. A bit odd that such a word would have found its way into a British pop song of the 20th century, though...
     
  5. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Lawdy Miss Clawdy isn't British, wasn't written by the Beatles.
    Sung by Lloyd Price it was the #1 song of 1952, or so I was told.:D

    Earliest reference in OED:
    1881 J. C. HARRIS Nights with Uncle Remus (1884) xxxix. 183 Lawdy mussy, Brer Rabbit! Whar my vittles?
     
  6. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    Panj,
    OK, then it does make sense - an American expression/pronunciation and an American song, then.
     
  7. TrentinaNE Senior Member

    USA
    English (American)
    Panj beat me to it. :D Cream also did a cover version of a "traditional blues song" called Lawdy Mama. Early rock was heavily influenced by what was then termed "Negro music."

    Elizabeth
     
  8. maxiogee Senior Member

    imithe
    I imagine she could be related to Good Golly Miss Molly!
     
  9. Isotta

    Isotta Senior Member

    France
    English, Hodgepodge
    I think everyone said "lawdy." The word does not strike me as a former slave word. In the mountains in the South, where there were few slaves and today have an almost entirely white population, you still hear "laws," as in "lawdy, laws" and more typically, "oh, laws." Though I've seen the latter in nineteenth century children's novels.

    Z.
     
  10. TrentinaNE Senior Member

    USA
    English (American)
    I'm pretty sure that in the novel Gone with the Wind, Prissy said "Lawdy." Not sure whether Margaret Mitchell had white characters using this expression as well. I can check. I've never heard "Lawdy, laws" but I haven't spent much time in the South.

    Cheers,
    Elizabeth
     
  11. Isotta

    Isotta Senior Member

    France
    English, Hodgepodge
    I had a typo which I've corrected--I meant that I think everyone said "lawdy." Though I also think they said "laws," and so on.

    But I'll continue, just for posterity--Prissy does say "lawdy" in the movie, though she does not in the book. About whether the white characters say "lawdy"--they don't. But I've never found Gone with the Wind, book or movie, a historically realistic representation of, well, anything.

    Mitchell writes the Prissy's speech thus:
    Fo' Gawd, Miss Scarlett!... Ah--Ah--Miss Scarlett, Ah doan know nuthin' 'bout bringin' babies. Maw
    wouldn' nebber lemme be 'round folkses whut wuz havin' dem.
    Scarlett's pronunciation of "Lord" would have been pretty close to if not the exact same as "lawd" (though in the book she thinks, "May the Lord damn Prissy."). Yet she replies thus:
    You black liar--what do you mean? You've been saying you knew
    everything about birthing babies. What is the truth? Tell me!

    For the most part Scarlett's written idiolect does not reflect any accent, and the reader is meant to imagine some charming Southern drawl, which, opposed to Prissy's idiolect, would have reflected a white linguistic superiority. So we're talking about linguicism and racism. We could rewrite Scarlett's words to reflect her actual speech. While it would be a little different than the slave dialect, it would resemble the slaves' speech more than Mitchell would have been comfortable with.

    So anyway, I only meant to question the word's origin or even mental association as a slave word. I think it's only that people would have been more likely to write it phonetically as such.

    Z.
     
  12. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I haven't found anything definitive on whether lawdy was actually a slave word rather than a word attributed as a slave word (as in the Uncle Remus context).
     
  13. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo Mod Chicken

    Arizona
    American English
    I don't think it's a slave word or a non-slave word; I just think it's a phonetic representation of how many people in the Southern US (regardless of race) pronounce the "or" combination of letters.

    It could be written a couple of different ways, depending on accent/inflection:
    I shuah am soah today, loahd.
    I shaw am saw today, lawd.
    I sho' am so' today lahd.
    I sure am sore today, lord.
     

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