Saturday, 28 September 2013

Good Smut - the Threshing Machine

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The English word 'smut' refers to sexual innuendo - especially the comedy use of the double entendre or double meaning.

When this is done well it is extremely amusing, causative of tears of merriment - and to be done well the system of double meanings must be applied with something of the strictness of an allegory.

The following example is a personal favourite which used to be sung (in various versions) in the West Country of my youth - in a rustic dialect and to the well-known tune "Villikins and His Dinah".

Here is the tune (different words): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOycdrSrqyQ

I have indeed performed it myself in public, in a duo calling ourselves The Muckspreaders: me playing the accordeon and joining the chorus and my friend Gareth singing raucously, smiting a tamourine, and thumping the floor with a thumb-stick.

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This is my recollection of the words, which I think came from The Yetties group.

Twere way down in Dorset or so I hear tell
There lived a young maiden and her name it were Nell
Now Nell she were pretty and just seventeen
When I showed her the works of me threshing machine
 

ChorusIyader, Iyader, Iyader IyayIyader, Iyader, Iyader Iyay 
Iyader, Iyader, Iyader Iyay
and I ups and I shows 'er the way

Twas one summer's morning in the merry month of May
When most of the farmers were out making hay
I cocked up me ear'oles and heard a girt scream
I says "Ah there goes Nell on thick threshing machine"

Chorus....
 

Twas one summer's evening in the merry month of June
When most of the farmers were lookin' at the moon
I said "come to the barn Nell where us won't be seen
And I'll show 'ee the works of me threshing machine"

Chorus....

I opened the barn door and there stood my dream
Er worked the oilcan whilst I worked up steam
Twere wondrous to see both the thrust and the drive
and when 'er come out 'twere more dead than alive

Chorus....

The flywheels and the pistons were a going around
When from the steam whistle came an 'orrible sound
I puts down me hand for to cut off the steam...
But the chaff had been blown from me threshing machine

Chorus....

Twas nine months later a baby she bore
And the pride of his Mother he was to be sure
Cos under his nappy could plainly be seen
 A bran' new two cylinder threshing machine.
 

Chorus.... 

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In this fine example of smut, the double meanings work almost perfectly ('more dead than alive' somewhat jumps ahead in the narrative, which then loops-back), with decent and smutty meanings mapping onto one another - and the last verse provides a decoding about what thrashing machine really means (or else, a surreal image!).

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10 comments:

  1. "Smut" - at least in American English - refers more to pornography than to clever double entendres.

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  2. @EA - Two nations divided by a common language...

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  3. Does smut really mean that, even in England? None of my dictionaries, British or American list that sense. Perhaps it's a bit of local dialect? Etymologically, of course, smut means "filth."

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  4. @WmJas - Sure it does. It means harmless crudity of the type characterized by Donald McGill seaside postcards (look them up on Google Images - Orwell wrote an essay about them) - or in modern times Benny Hill, Frankie Howard (referenced by dearieme above) and the Carry On movies, the Two Ronnies and so on.

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  5. How can you speak of "good smut?" It is a contradiction in terms. you might as well speak of "safe poison." I fail to understand how you can condemn immodesty (and rightly so,) and yet find amusement in filthy talk. The Bible speaks of "whatsoever is pure," and counsels us to "think on these things," and, we are further told in the Bible that "evil communications corrupt good manners."

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  6. @MW - I think it depends on context, motivation, frequency etc. CS Lewis and the Inklings talked this way sometimes - in context it seems like a natural and healthy thing. There are many things which are potentially harmful, or harmful to some or even most people; which in other people are an expansion of life and a pleasant relaxation - alcohol for one (I personally don't drink at all for health reasons, but happily take a sip of communion wine!). But I would agree that sometimes it is better overall when such things are prohibited altogether - for example alcohol among Amerindians.

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  7. Titus Didius Tacitus3 October 2013 at 03:32

    To sustain a culture like this you need a population with a considerable native wit, enough to enjoy the joke without needing to strain at it.

    It's a pity to lose that.

    But intelligence is the least of what makes us us. It was gained; it is being lost; it can be gained again.

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  8. If you want to talk about double entendre you can't go past Kenneth Williams. E.g. Kenneth Williams as Rambling Syd Rumpo - The Ballad of the Wogglers Moulie (http://angelophile.tumblr.com/post/19851052820/kenneth-williams-as-rambling-syd-rumpo-the)

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  9. @MCB - Yes, RSR is very amusing - I think I linked to 'Green grows my bogling fork' in the comments a while back. In fact I like those 1960s Kenneth Horne radio programmes (such as Round the Horne - which featured RSR each week) - I got a few CDs of them for Christmas a few years ago.

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