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Username: Dancas1

Post Number: 2
Registered: 01-2005
Posted on Saturday, January 29, 2005 - 03:02 am:   Edit Post Print Post

In 1910 John Lomax concluded the first edition of his now canonical "Cowboy Songs and Frontier Ballads" with a song he called "the quintessential cowboy song, unlike others known to have been imported and adapted in the West," Whoopie Ti Yi Yo, Git Along Little Doggies.

The enigmatic phonetic lyrics of this world-famous, foundational American cowboy song have puzzled scholars and American folklorists for a century.


As I was a-walkin' one morning for pleasure,
I spied a cow puncher a-ridin' along.
His hat was throw'd back and his spurs were
As he approached me a-singin' this song...

Whoopie Ti Yi Yo, Git' along little dogies
It's your misfortune and none of my own;
Whoopie Ti Yi Yo, Git' along little dogies
For you know Wyoming will be your new home.

Lomax wrote that "(t)he tune of this song was given to me at the Texas cattleman's Convention, Fort Worth, Texas, 1910, by Mrs. Trantham, a wandering gypsy minstrel."

Years later, in an expanded edition of "Cowboy Songs," Professor Lomax characterized the enigmatic lyrics and haunting air of Whoopie Ti Yi Yo as being "touched by the style of the Irish traveling folk." In fact, the mysterious "gypsy" minstrel Mrs. Trantham was not a Romany Gypsy but an American Irish Traveller. (CSFB, Lomax, pp. xxvi-xxviii, p. 4.)

The American Irish Travellers, or "Irish Tinkers," an inaccurate moniker they barely tolerate, are a scattered Diaspora of itinerant Irish and Gammon speaking clans that have flourished in the United States for centuries. They are "cousins" of the Irish Travellers of Ireland and the most invisible Irish Americans.

The Irish Travellers live and work in sizeable numbers throughout the south and west and have lived in Fort Worth, Texas, where Mrs. Trantham first sang the song to John Lomaz, for at least 150 years. I have Irish and Gammon-speaking Traveller friends in the United States who have confirmed much of the Fort Worth Traveller history, but that is for another post...back to this key American cowboy song.

Whoopie Ti Yi Yo's enigmatic language puzzled John and his son the late folklorist Alan Lomax for their entire lives; especially the source of the word "dogie" for the runty, orphaned, hard to fatten calves in the herd.

"Dogie - A scrubby calf that has not wintered well and is anemic from the scant food of the cold weather...also a dogey. It is in the language of the cowboy a calf who has lost his mammy and whose daddy has run off with another cow. Ramon F. Adams, "Dictionary of the American West," Univ. of Oklahoma, 1968, p. 96

Some scholars speculated that the term "dogie" derived from the Mexican term "dogal" for a calves' halter. Others asserted that "dogies," said to be pronounced more like "doughy" by the cowboys, may have derived from the phrase "dough-guts" and described the bloated look of the hard to feed, motherless calves, too young or anemic to eat scrub grass. But all agreed that the cowboys themselves defined the "dogies" as runty orphans.

Despite the fact that the song was first "given" to John Lomax by a Texas Irish Traveller female bard, or that his son Alan, in a lifelong quest for the song's origins and the source of the word dogie, traced the melody of Whoopie Ti Yi Yo to Ireland in the 1960s and an Irish lullaby about an orphan child in an old man's arms, no one ssought the source of the song's strange words - and the word "dogie" in particular -- in the Irish language.

I believe the mysterious word "dogie" is merely the English phonetic representation of the Irish word do-thóigthe.

Do-thóigthe , p.a., hard to rear; hard to fatten (as a calf). (Dineen, p. 361).

Do-thóigthe fits perfectly the definition of a dogie in the American west.

I also believe the rest of the songs phonetic chorus might be reracinated into Irish as follows.

Lomax's phonetic word "Whoopie" may conceal the Irish word "Uimhir," meaning "a number" and wouldsounds like "Whoovie" to a Harvard Professor's English speaking ears.

The three-syllable phonetic phrase "ti yi yo" may hide the Irish compound-participle,
"dí-áireamh," -- as in the "countless number" of the vast cattle herds of the Old Chisolm Trail.

Whoopie Ti Yi Yo may then merely be the dude Anglo-Saxonist Harvard English professor's phonetic spelling of the Irish phrase
"Uimhir Dí -áireamh," meaning "a countless number."

In this re-translated Irish version of Mrs. Trantham's lyric the singing buckaroos (bocaí rua, wild bucks or playboys) urge the anemic ládáil do-thóigthe ( hard-to-fatten cargo) to céadlongadh (break fast) on the sparse prairie grass of the Chisholm Trail. The haunting Gaelic air soothes the hungry herd that will soon meet their "misfortune" in the slaughter houses at the end of the Old Chisholm Trail.

Here's what I Believe to be Mrs. Trantham's Irish version of the songs eerie B flat chorus - with an English re-translation.

Whoopie Ti Yi Yo, git along, little doggies
Uimhir dí-áireamh, céadlongadh ládáil do-thóigthe
Countless number break fast, hard-to-feed cargo,
...It's your misfortune and none of my own

In 1910, the American Irish Traveller bard, Mrs. Trantham, caoins (keens, cries) not only for the "numberless" herds, on their way to the fattening pens and slaughter houses at the end of the Chisholm trail, but for her human family, the vast "orphan cargo" of 19th century Europe, who famished or fled in numberless numbers a mere sixty years before, in a starving Ireland, so full of misfortune.

Anyway, these are my thoughts on this eerie and bautiful Irish American Traveller song. By the way, Lomax, the avid Anglo-Saxonist Harvard Professor, glommed (gla/m)the copyright, as he did with so many other folk songs. Today there are thousands of Irish Travellers still living in the Fort Worth area. Some of them Mrs. Trantham's great-grandchildren. I also believe her moniker may have something to do with fortune telling or forseeing the future, her other occupation in addition to singing.

All comments are appreciated.

Beannacht, Daniel Cassidy


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Posted on Saturday, January 29, 2005 - 10:55 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I think the "whoopie ti yi yo" could be just another one of those random repetitive phrases commonly found in folk songs, especially Irish ones. Like "whack for the tooraloora laddy" etc.Another "cowboy" song uses the words "yippee ki oh ki a". Can you figure an Irish form of that?

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Username: Dancas1

Post Number: 3
Registered: 01-2005
Posted on Saturday, January 29, 2005 - 01:30 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Ki O or Ky-O may be caitheamh or caith o/ which is what the puncher (painte/ar, snare, fig. a "snarer") does with his lasso when punching (snaring) the dogies (do-tho/igthe)??

it is as least worth posing the question. many of these so-called nonsense phrases in American work songs may not be nonsense. "Workin on The Erie" has a long repeating phonetic phrase that may mean something like "I return or go back, rising again, to work upon the Erie..."


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