Taffy was a Welshman

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"Taffy was a Welshman"
Nursery rhyme
Publishedc. 1780
Songwriter(s)Unknown

"Taffy was a Welshman" is an English language nursery rhyme which was popular between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 19237.[1]

Lyrics[edit]

Versions of this rhyme vary. Some common versions are:

Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief;
Taffy came to my house and stole a leg of beef;
I went to Taffy's house and Taffy was in bed;
I upped with the jerry pot and hit him on the head.

Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief;
Taffy came to my house and stole a piece of beef;
I went to Taffy's house, Taffy wasn't in;
I jumped upon his Sunday hat and poked it with a pin.

Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a sham;
Taffy came to my house and stole a piece of lamb;
I went to Taffy's house, Taffy was away,
I stuffed his socks with sawdust and filled his shoes with clay.

Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a cheat,
Taffy came to my house, and stole a piece of meat;
I went to Taffy's house, Taffy was not there,
I hung his coat and trousers to roast before a fire.[2]

Origins and history[edit]

The term "Taffy" (pronounced with a short "a" to rhyme with Daffy Duck) may be a merging of the common Welsh name "[[David (disambiguation)|Dafydd]" (Welsh pronunciation: [ˈdavɨð]) and the Welsh river "Taff" on which Cardiff is built, and seems to have been in use by the mid-eighteenth century.[3] The term "Taffy" or "Taff" was not necessarily derogatory, though clearly it is in the verse and in many other contexts. In WW2 it was used without any slur, to refer to soldiers of Welsh origin, just as other regional slang names like Geordie, Scouse or Jock were used. Similarly a Welsh teacher in an English school might be referred to as "Taffy (surname)". However, the suggestion of a slur remains in the fact that Welsh people would very rarely refer to themselves as "A Taff", whereas, for example, Geordies might use that name for themselves. The rhyme may be related to one published in Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book, printed in London around 1744, which had the lyrics:

Taffy was born
On a Moon Shiny Night,
His head in the Pipkin,
His Heels upright.[2]

The earliest record we have of the better known rhyme is from Nancy Cock's Pretty Song Book, printed in London about 1780, which had one verse:

Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief;
Taffy came to my house and stole a piece of beef;
I went to Taffy's house, Taffy wasn't home;
Taffy came to my house and stole a marrow-bone.[2]

Similar versions were printed in collections in the late eighteenth century, however, in Songs for the Nursery printed in 1805, the first signs of violence were evident, ending with:

I went to Taffy's house, Taffy was in bed,
I took the marrow bone and beat about his head.[2]

In the 1840s James Orchard Halliwell collected a two verse version that followed this with:

I went to Taffy's house, Taffy was not in;
Taffy came to my house and stole a silver pin.
I went to Taffy's house, Taffy was in bed;
I took up a poker and threw it at his head.[4]

This version seems to have been particularly popular in the English counties that bordered Wales, where it was sung on Saint David's Day (1 March) complete with leek-wearing effigies of Welshmen.[2] The image of thieving Welshmen seems to have begun to die down by the mid-twentieth century, although the insulting rhyme was still sometimes used along with the name "Taffy" for any Welshman.

In 1960's and 70's London many people born in the 1920's sang this version.

Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief. Taffy came to my house and stole a piece of beef. I went to Taffy's house when taffy was in bed. Up with the piss pot and hit him on the head.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Roud Folksong Index S377993 Taffy was a Welshman". Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. English Folk Dance and Song Society. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), pp. 400–1.
  3. ^ M. Stephens, The Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales (Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 569.
  4. ^ J. O. Halliwell, The Nursery Rhymes of England (London, 1846), p. 19.