Cane dirt

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Jude73

Member
French
Could anybody please explain what "cane dirt" is? (Sugar cane dirt, presumably, but I'm still not sure what it is.)

Context : New Orleans. "She's discovered she's invisible te people who don't know to look for her, sitting still on her porch. Like a bird, or a bug. Or a woman old as cane dirt."
 
  • foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Since the woman is being disregarded, the phrase "older than dirt" is being expanded to include the judgmental "lower than dirt." The woman is being described as not just inconspicuous, but not worth anyone's regard.

    The word cane introduces this idea of hierarchy, because cane is grown in the bayous and delta country, in the lowest most downstreamiest dirt they is. Cotton is grown upland, on higher ground.

    Cane dirt is fit only for crops that don't require any drainage at all, stuff you wouldn't even grow rice in-- even flooded paddies have to dry out completely at the mature phase of the crop cycle.

    There is (or was) even a hierarchy and set of rules about cane-- a crop that requires considerable "refinement," after all. White refined sugar is the best, in spite of recent health findings-- it's the fanciest, then. The people of high station pluck white sugarcubes out of crystal bowls with silver tongs, common people save money and eat brown sugar, and lickspittles and pickaninnies gnaw at a piece of raw canestalk.

    "Bottom" line, cane dirt is lower than even the most ordinariest of dirt.
     
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