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Yankee Doodle Song Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

If you know the song '~'Yankee Doodle'~', you may have wondered why anyone would put a feather in his hat and call it '~'macaroni.'~' Read on to find out about the history of the song and its meaning.

''Yankee Doodle''

Did you know that the song ''Yankee Doodle'' was originally sung by British soldiers to make fun of the Americans before the American Revolution? Here is the original version of the song:

''Brother Ephraim sold his cow

And bought him a commission

And then he went to Canada

To fight for the nation...

Sheep's head and vinegar

Buttermilk and tansy

Boston Is a Yankee town,

Sing 'Hey, doodle dandy!''

Continental Army Soldiers
soldiers

History of the Song

Historian believe that the first version of ''Yankee Doodle'' was written by Dr. Richard Schuckberg, who served in the British army during the French and Indian War. From 1754-1763, soldiers from the American colonies fought alongside British soldiers against the French. At that time, the American colonists and the British were allies, meaning they were on the same side in the conflict. After the war ended, the colonists became increasingly upset with England over many issues, but mostly over taxes.

British troops started singing ''Yankee Doodle'' around 1763 as an insult to the colonists. The relationship between England and the colonies became worse and worse, until the outbreak of the American Revolution, which lasted from 1775-1783.

In colonial times, there were not many printed books or newspapers, and people lived great distances apart; songs were one way they expressed their opinions about politics. The British saw the American colonists as uneducated, uncultured country bumpkins who had poor manners and wore cheap clothing.

As the British soldiers marched to Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, to fight in the first battles of the American Revolution, they sang this version of ''Yankee Doodle'' to taunt the colonists:

''Yankee Doodle's come to town

For to buy a firelock,

We will tar and feather him

And so will we John Hancock.''

But instead of thinking of ''Yankee Doodle'' as an insult, the colonists simply changed the lyrics and adopted the song as their own. One of the most popular versions sung by soldiers during the war was:

''Yankee Doodle is the tune

That we all delight in;

It suits for feasts, it suits for fun,

And just as well for fightin'.''

American Soldiers
colonists

Current Version of the Song

We still sing ''Yankee Doodle'' today, more than 250 years since it was first written! While there have been many different versions of the lyrics over this time, the lyrics that most people know today were written in 1842:

''Yankee Doodle went to town

A-riding on a pony

Stuck a feather in his cap

And called it macaroni.''

Many historians believe that the word ''Yankee'' was based on the Dutch word ''Janke.'' New York, originally New Amsterdam, was settled by the Dutch long before the American Revolution.

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