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Songs and Oaths:
Yankee Doodle

The origins of the words and music of the Yankee Doodle are not known exactly due to the fact that the song has many versions. But, this patriotic U.S. song has an uncomplimentary history.

The music and words go back to 15th century Holland, as a harvesting song that began, "Yanker dudel doodle down." In England, the tune was used for a nursery rhyme -- "Lucy Locket". Later, the song poked fun of Puritan church leader Oliver Cromwell, because "Yankee" was a mispronunciation of the word "English" in the Dutch language, and "doodle" refers to a dumb person. But it was a British surgeon, Richard Schuckburgh, who wrote the words we know today that ridiculed the ragtag colonists fighting in the French and Indian War.

Soon after, the British troops used the song to make fun of the American colonists during the Revolutionary War. Yet it became the American colonists' rallying anthem for that war. At the time the Revolutionary War began, Americans were proud to be called yankees and "Yankee Doodle" became the colonists most stirring anthem of defiance and liberty.

During Pre-Revolutionary America when the song "Yankee Doodle" first became popular, the word macaroni in the line that reads "stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni" didn't refer to the pasta. Instead, "Macaroni" was a fancy and overdressed ("dandy") style of Italian clothing widely imitated in England at the time. So by just sticking a feather in his cap and calling himself a "Macaroni", Yankee Doodle was proudly proclaiming himself to be a country bumpkin (an awkward and unsophisticated person), because that was how the English regarded most colonials at that time.

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This audio version of "Yankee Doodle" was obtained from the United States Air Force (USAF) Heritage of America Band. Visit the USAF Heritage of America Band's official Web site for more patriotic songs.