heads will be jumping from bullfrogs

bolie

Member
French
Hi, guys.

I'm having trouble understanding this sentence "I ain’t wanna work no such place. Hand breakfast to a beef of a Negro, stout as a mule. Say, what tyou doing here, anyhow ? How come this ? When spooks get to write for white folks, heads will be jumping from bullfrogs and having other Negroes wait on them"

This is a black woman talking to a black guy who's been asked by and old white folk to move in with him to write his thesis for him (as he can no longer write).
The black lady is the maid of the white folk and she's not happy to serve the new black guy.

Thanks for your help!
 
  • Language Hound

    Senior Member
    American English
    The meaning of "when pigs fly"doesn't make sense to me here because the black man has already been asked to move in with the white man to help him write his thesis and it seems like a possibility that this will actually occur.

    I think that the idea that a black person would wait on another black person who is living in a white person's home and helping that white person to write is so unnatural to this black woman that she thinks unnatural things will happen in nature--like bullfrogs having their heads jump off their bodies. Just an educated guess, though, as I've never actually heard this phrase before.
     

    Language Hound

    Senior Member
    American English
    and pigs flying is natural?
    Of course not!
    But "when pigs fly" is used as a way to say that something will never happen.
    Clearly, that is not the case in the OP, where it seems that the black man has moved in with the white man to help him write his thesis:
    The black lady is the maid of the white folk and she's not happy to serve the new black guy.
     

    Franco-filly

    Senior Member
    English - Southern England
    I read it as her saying [the equivalent to] "pigs will fly if I wait on the new black guy" - as she'd already said "I ain’t wanna work no such place." which suggests, to me, that she is threatening to leave. ;)
     

    Language Hound

    Senior Member
    American English
    I read it as her saying [the equivalent to] "pigs will fly if I wait on the new black guy"...
    And does this mean that unnatural things will happen if she waits on the new black guy?
    I ask in all seriousness because I have never heard "pigs will fly;" I am only familiar with the idiom "When pigs fly."
    Definition of when pigs fly
    US, informal
    —used to say that one thinks that something will never happen
    The train station will be renovated when pigs fly.
    I just learned from Wikipedia that "Other variations on [When pigs fly] include "And pigs will fly", this one in retort to an outlandish statement."

    Further complicating matters is the wording of the statement itself: "When spooks get to write for white folks, heads will be jumping from bullfrogs and having other Negroes wait on them." I think it would be a little more readily understandable if it read, for example, "When spooks get to write for white folks and have other Negroes wait on them, heads will be jumping from bullfogs."
     

    Language Hound

    Senior Member
    American English
    This version of the text (part of a dialog) was found here:
    Rose, Capt Renfro's Maid : Well, O' Lord, when spooks get a writin' for White folks, ants will be jumpin' from bullfrogs and havin' other Negros wait on them. You just as much a spook as I's! This is a last mouthful I fetch for you or any other jig walk in, Peter Siner! You ain't no black Jesus!
    This makes sense to me, unlike the OP's version.
    Here, when black people start writing for white people, ants will be jumping from bullfrogs and then being waited on by blacks!
    Quite an image!
     
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