Independence Day is one of the most cherished and time-honored holidays in the United States. This federal holiday is an annual celebration of American independence from the British Empire and is commonly associated with parades, picnics, carnivals, and concerts during the day – topped off with majestic fireworks displays after sunset.
The firework shows are traditionally set to patriotic anthems including Yankee Doodle – a well-known American song that predates the American Revolution. We all know the tune, even if we don’t understand the lyrics. Why did Yankee Doodle go to town? Why did he call his hat “macaroni” after sticking a feather in it? And most importantly, how do such seemingly-nonsensical words play such a prominent role in our nation’s history?
“Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on pony.
He stuck a feather in his cap
And called it Macaroni.”
Before we find out why Yankee Doodle called his hat “macaroni,” we should probably back up and find out what the term “Yankee Doodle” means.
The term “Yankee” itself has several interrelated meanings depending on the context, however, all of them refer to people from the United States. Outside of the U.S., the term is used to refer to any American – including Southerners. Within the United States, however, the term is a derisive one which refers to all Northerners – especially ones from the Union side of the American Civil War. Some people go a step further and only view New Englanders as true “Yankees.”
The first appearance of the term “doodle” can be traced back to the early 17th century and is thought to be derived from the Low Saxon word “dudel,” which means “playing music badly,” or “Dodel, meaning “simpleton” or “fool.”
What Does That Have to do with Macaroni?
Today when we think of macaroni, we typically start salivating for the nostalgically-delicious childhood meal made of noodles and a cheese-like substance eaten from a box, but the macaroni in this instance refers to a fashionable man from the mid-18th century who spoke and dressed in an outlandish and epicene manner.
But why macaroni? Because young upper-class British men returning from trips to Italy developed a taste for the pasta that was hardly known in England at the time and were said to belong to the Macaroni Club because of their insistence on referring to anything fashionable as “very macaroni.”
It’s all starting to come together now. When British surgeon Dr. Richard Shuckburgh penned the lyrics, he was mocking Yankees by insinuating that they were low-class simpletons who lacked masculinity – as if simply putting a feather in one’s cap would make him sophisticated and noble.
That sure doesn’t sound patriotic, but the Yankees soon turned the tables by embracing the song as an anthem of defiance. Americans subsequently went a step further by adding additional verses mocking the British and shortly thereafter, the song went from being an insult to a source of national pride.
That was more than 200 years ago, and the song still stands as one of our nation’s most beloved and patriotic tunes. In fact, President John F. Kennedy once bought a pony for his daughter Caroline – and called it Macaroni.
If you’re heading out to celebrate Independence Day on July 4, or plan on hosting a celebration of your own – don’t forget the flowers! Topper’s European Floral Design is here to help you celebrate with a bang with a beautiful bouquet of red, white, and blue flowers – perfect for the 4th of July. Give us a call or stop in today to see what’s in store for you. If you find exactly what you’d like, we’ll make it for you! Have a safe and happy 4th from your friends at Topper’s!