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  #1  
Old 10-23-2003, 08:53 AM
Götterfunken Götterfunken is offline
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"Like a Continental soldier"

I arose from bed this morning with the song "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" stuck in my head. As I showered, I pondered over the meaning of the lyrics.

Putting aside the question of why you would ever want to tie your ears into a knot, what exactly is the relevance of Continental soldiers to low-hanging ears?

"Can you throw them [i.e., your ears] over your shoulder
Like a Continental soldier?
Do your ears ... hang ... low?"

I think when I heard this song as a child, I'd always assumed it was a reference to some aspect of Continental soldiers' military dress (i.e., the uniforms worn by the colonial army in the American Revolution), or to something that the soldiers carried over their shoulder (like a musket).

But now that I think about it, I'm really not sure what the Continental soldiers would have thrown over their shoulders.

(The answer to the more pressing question is, no: my ears do not hang low)
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  #2  
Old 10-23-2003, 09:23 AM
Lagged2Death Lagged2Death is offline
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Like at least one or two other "children's songs," this one has some, ah, questionably-appropriate origins. It's originally "do your balls hang low." Have a look around Google way - some versions are just silly, some are ribald, and some are quite obscene.

I always get a kick out of hearing kids singing this tune - so many of the parents just don't know what's happening.

I suppose that doesn't really answer your question, though. I'm guessing it's just a cleaned-up version of an old oral-tradition marching-drinking song, like about a million others, and looking for much logic or explanation may be futile.
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  #3  
Old 10-23-2003, 09:32 AM
ChoosyChipsAndCeilingWhacks ChoosyChipsAndCeilingWhacks is offline
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I thought it was "Do your BOOBS hang low." Dang.
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  #4  
Old 10-23-2003, 10:06 AM
lissener lissener is offline
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I always assumed it was a reference to the way a soldier holds his rifle over his shoulder.
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  #5  
Old 10-23-2003, 10:08 AM
toadspittle toadspittle is offline
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Right. Growing up near Valley Forge, I always assumed this

"Can you throw them [i.e., your ears] over your shoulder
Like a Continental soldier?

was an allusion to Colonial-era soldiers (esp. those of Geo. Washington's Continetal Army), who held long muskets over their shoulders (and often swung them around rather dramatically during drills).
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  #6  
Old 10-23-2003, 10:17 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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This is how I interpret it: Many paintings and drawings of 18th Century Americans depict them with long hair, often worn in a queue. I've always assumed that since might have had long hair, a Continental soldier might have been able to toss it over his shoulder. In other words:

Can you throw it over your shoulder
Like a Continental soldier
can do with his hair?
Quote:
It's originally "do your balls hang low."
Do you have a cite that "balls" was the original lyric? While "balls" fits in well with the other lyrics, the idea of throwing them over one's shoulder like a Continental soldier is nonsensical. Unlike the depictions of long hair, which could have been thrown over the soldier's shoulder, I have seen no evidence that these soldiers or any other Colonial were in the habit of slinging their testicles over their shoulders. This leads me to presume that "hair" was the original lyric, and "balls" was substituted later.
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  #7  
Old 10-23-2003, 11:13 AM
Götterfunken Götterfunken is offline
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I've heard the "balls" version sung before, but primarily by twelve-year old boys--I thought it was just a parody (and, oh, what witty parody it seemed in the 6th grade) on the "ears" version. If there's a cite for "balls" being the original version, though, I'd like to see it.

I've been looking at some paintings of the period, and haven't found anything that can give me a clear answer.

I'm inclined to go with the musket explanation (though I've also considered the possibility of long braids, like Johnny L.A. suggests), though I'd like to find a conclusive cite.
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  #8  
Old 10-23-2003, 11:31 AM
LordVor LordVor is offline
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Was "balls" even a slang term for testicles when the song was written?

-lv
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  #9  
Old 10-23-2003, 11:36 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Quote:
I'm inclined to go with the musket explanation (though I've also considered the possibility of long braids, like [b]Johnny L.A.[b] suggests), though I'd like to find a conclusive cite.
The musket theory also has merit -- perhaps more than my queue theory. I just thought that since the song was about hair, the song must be referring to the soldiers' hair. But this also makes sense:

Can you throw it over your shoulder
Like a Continental soldier
does with his musket?
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  #10  
Old 10-23-2003, 11:42 AM
Lagged2Death Lagged2Death is offline
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No, I have no cite for "balls" being the original version. Shame on me.

In my (possibly very weak) defense, though, I've met a few soldiers, and I have a hard time believing that they'd come up with a song about their hair, of all things. Balls would seem much more in character (recall the WWII-era song about Hitler, for example). After days of marching, I can imagine one's attention would be far more closely focused on one's bouncing, battered, aching testicles than on one's hair.

Also, if the original was something as innocent as "hair," why swap in "ears" for the kiddies?

As for actually slinging one's testicles over one's shoulder - well, it's possible that the original singers engaged in a bit of humorous exaggeration from time to time.
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  #11  
Old 10-23-2003, 11:49 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Quote:
I've met a few soldiers, and I have a hard time believing that they'd come up with a song about their hair
But do we know that the song originated with soldiers?
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  #12  
Old 10-23-2003, 11:52 AM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Probably it just happened to fit the rhythm scheme and has nothing to do with anything a soldier ever did.

Not everything in the world is a literal description of something. This is especially true in songs and poetry.
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  #13  
Old 10-23-2003, 11:53 AM
toadspittle toadspittle is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Johnny L.A.
While "balls" fits in well with the other lyrics, the idea of throwing them over one's shoulder like a Continental soldier is nonsensical.
Ahh, yes. Tying your ears in a knot or a bow, though, makes perfect sense.

And when have songs ever made sense? From Camptown Races to the Flying Purple People Eater, I have rarely seen evidence that songwriters/singers have ever strived in any way to exclude nonsense from their works.
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  #14  
Old 10-23-2003, 11:54 AM
NoGoodNamesLeft NoGoodNamesLeft is offline
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We sung the 'balls' version in grade school, too. It's not nonsensical, it's the whole esence of the song. If your balls hang so low you can sling them over your shoulder, that's *really* low. That's the whole point of the song.

I think I've also heard the 'boobs' version, too.
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  #15  
Old 10-23-2003, 12:08 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Quote:
Ahh, yes. Tying your ears in a knot or a bow, though, makes perfect sense.
But you can tie your hair in a knot or a bow, which is the version I learned.
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  #16  
Old 10-23-2003, 12:14 PM
curly chick curly chick is offline
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Am I the only person who has heard Regimental, rather than Continental as the type of soldier with extendable whatever-they-ares?
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  #17  
Old 10-23-2003, 12:22 PM
1000monkeys 1000monkeys is offline
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I always thought it was "boys", as in:

"Do your boys hang low?"

This seems like clever and ribald (by 18th century standards) soldier scrotum references to me.
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  #18  
Old 10-23-2003, 12:41 PM
Starbury Starbury is offline
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I did a little searching on LordVor's question about when "balls" began being used as a slang term for testicles. The best I could come up with for a date of origin was "20th century" from an online dictionary.

From what I could find (on UseNet and mudcat.org), Vance Randolph was the first to publish this song, under the title "Do your Balls Hang Low", in 1941. Randolph said he collected the song from a singer that year, who said he [the singer] learned it around 1920.

More recently, Ed Cray published the text and tune of "Do Your Balls Hang Low", in 'The Erotic Muse', 2nd ed., 1992.
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  #19  
Old 10-23-2003, 01:00 PM
bughunter bughunter is offline
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I suggest that instead of hair, the original meme was "does your beard hang low."

I mean, have you seen some of the beards from that era?

Heck, some folks still sport them today.

And who knows... the whole idea could have originated as a kind of Dwarven love song. (cite)
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  #20  
Old 10-23-2003, 01:16 PM
lieu lieu is offline
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Makes one curious what period metaphor they would haver borrowed.

Do your grapeshot hang low?
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  #21  
Old 10-23-2003, 02:46 PM
lissener lissener is offline
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Um, testicles are balls--literally. So I don't imagine that such an accurately descriptive word would be a modern invention.
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  #22  
Old 10-23-2003, 02:54 PM
Sigene Sigene is online now
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I always heard it as "Like a sailor going home" Which we assumed was the duffel bag thrown over your shoulder when your going home....

It makes the most sense to me
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  #23  
Old 10-23-2003, 05:06 PM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by LordVor
Was "balls" even a slang term for testicles when the song was written?

-lv
I believe balls (or "ballocks") was used by Elizabethan playwrights, like Shakespeare & Marlow, who wrote about 100-150 years before this song. So I'd think it certainly would have been a slang term by then.
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  #24  
Old 10-23-2003, 05:13 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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My guess would be that the line "Like a Continental [or Regimental] soldier" resulted from an attempt to come up with something that rhymed and scanned with "Can you throw them over your shoulder," and not from any actual military customs or practices.
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  #25  
Old 10-23-2003, 05:30 PM
DrMatrix DrMatrix is offline
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There was an underware commercial that showed boxers and briefs hanging on the line while in the background, you heard, "Dooo yoouuur boys hang low? Do they wobble too and fro? . . ."

I had a clip of the commercial, but I can't seem to find it.
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  #26  
Old 10-23-2003, 06:02 PM
Derleth Derleth is online now
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I always thought it was a bowdlerization of the original `lousy fucking soldier'.

No, it is not a kid's song. I figure it was sung by the troops when they were route-marching.
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  #27  
Old 07-28-2012, 08:41 PM
whatwould_JC_do whatwould_JC_do is offline
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As a kid hearing this song the words "like a dead soldier" were used instead of "like a continental soldier". This makes more sense as a dead soldier was often thrown over the shoulder to carry him.
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  #28  
Old 07-28-2012, 09:00 PM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
Do you have a cite that "balls" was the original lyric? While "balls" fits in well with the other lyrics, the idea of throwing them over one's shoulder like a Continental soldier is nonsensical.
That's why it is funny, it is a humorous exaggeration.
Quote:
Unlike the depictions of long hair, which could have been thrown over the soldier's shoulder, I have seen no evidence that these soldiers or any other Colonial were in the habit of slinging their testicles over their shoulders. This leads me to presume that "hair" was the original lyric, and "balls" was substituted later.
So that's where Willow Smith ripped her song off from: "I whip my hair back and forth, (like Continental soldier.)"
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  #29  
Old 07-29-2012, 01:11 AM
tesseract tesseract is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by curly chick View Post
Am I the only person who has heard Regimental, rather than Continental as the type of soldier with extendable whatever-they-ares?
We sang it as "Yankee Doodle Soldier."

As far as throwing them over your shoulder, doesn't it make sense that it would be because if you threw something over your shoulder(s) it would look like their uniform in the back, with the white strap going down diagonally across the back from each shoulder?
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  #30  
Old 07-29-2012, 01:45 AM
silenus silenus is online now
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Do zombies have balls?
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  #31  
Old 07-29-2012, 12:34 PM
anson2995 anson2995 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LordVor View Post
Was "balls" even a slang term for testicles when the song was written?
Balls as slang for testicles dates to the 14th century.

The precise origins of this song are not clear, although it clearly was derived from Turkey in the Straw, a staple of the early 19th century minstrel circuit. It most likely dates to the civil war era, and the boobs/balls variations came later.
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  #32  
Old 07-29-2012, 10:28 PM
listedmia listedmia is offline
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I always thought "Continental" referred to "The Continent", Europe as opposed to Britain. The thought of Continental soldiers in the Revolutionary War did not cross my mind.
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  #33  
Old 09-21-2012, 02:08 PM
kleeem kleeem is offline
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balls

Quote:
Originally Posted by anson2995 View Post
Balls as slang for testicles dates to the 14th century.

The precise origins of this song are not clear, although it clearly was derived from Turkey in the Straw, a staple of the early 19th century minstrel circuit. It most likely dates to the civil war era, and the boobs/balls variations came later.
According to Online Etymology the term balls was used in 14th century. well before the continental war. so it is quite possible that the original lyrics were about balls, and during the continental war. And, as mentioned before, soldiers (or in fact any man) exaggerating the size of their junk is quite common and endures to today. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=balls
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  #34  
Old 09-21-2012, 04:53 PM
KlondikeGeoff KlondikeGeoff is offline
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Well, I first learned "Do your balls hang low?" in the Army (US, that is) in 1945. The second verse, which was very common then was,

"Is your cock in line,
With the center of your spine,
Is it long, is it short,
Is it little liee mine?
Do your balls hang loooow?"
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