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Thursday 12 April 2012

Misguided aid for kids

Touching to find that Lucy and Plutarch also had a bit of previous with I Know Where I’m Going (see last post)

FigMince, who’s good at sarky comments, had further suggestions about modifying the lyrics but it occurs to me I didn’t make myself clear about the song’s appeal and how the bowdlerisation horrified me.

The key lines for me are:

Some say he’s black
But I say he’s bonny

Thus the singer (always a woman) loves Johnny who is not merely disadvantaged but the victim of neighbourly racism. Subsequent meddlers, presumably with miscegenation on their mind, decided to protect children singing the song by inserting “poor” instead of “black”, missing the point of the powerful original lines. We’re all against poverty; fewer of us (I hope) are against blacks and whites commingling.

The song is Celtic in origin. Mrs LdP tells me that in this context “black” can mean criminal, a tearaway. Even if it does, this does not justify the substitution.

Am I breaking a butterfly on the wheel? I don’t think so. Music makes sentiments stronger and more memorable. Consider “Some say he’s black”: four notes for four syllables ending with the abruptly snapped-off K sound. Whereas the twin-syllable/twin-note “bonny” is softer, more affectionate and can be extended.

This is a lovely little song which says something worthwhile about love. Please use “black” at the washing-up bowl, in the bath and while stuck in traffic on the M25.


  1. Groan all you like, but I can't resist this:

    Poor is the new black.

  2. Some of the earlier versions substituted the word bad for black