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Wayne Hinshaw: Dilly dilly

If you have watched any TV sports broadcast in the past month, you have seen the Bud Light beer commercials in which the Medieval court is sitting around the king.

When the beer is served, there is a shout of “dilly dilly” from the court, which is followed by another “dilly dilly.”

In other commercials, you will see the “Bud Knight” dressed in all blue loading beer on a Medieval cart. “Dilly dilly.”

Photographing high school and college basketball in recent weeks, I have been hearing a shout somewhere in the gym of “dilly dilly” after a good play. Again, “dilly dilly” is followed by another “dilly dilly” somewhere from the crowd. Periodically, there will be a repeating shout from the fans of “dilly dilly.”

What is this dilly dilly all about anyway?

Miguel Patricio, the chief marketing officer with Anheuser-Busch, who is behind the Medieval court advertisement, said, “Dilly dilly doesn’t mean anything. That’s the beauty of it. I think that we all need our moments of nonsense and fun.”

I think Patricio is incorrect about the meaning. Surely he didn’t do his background study on the phrase.

Samantha Enslen in her writing blog “Gramma Girl” stated that a “dilly is a coach or a carriage.” It is an obsolete term for a horse-drawn carriage. The word was used in the 1700s as it was extended to “include carts, trucks and even railway engines.”

When horse-drawn carriages were parked behind the barns, the world dilly was parked to gather dust.

Today, “dilly dilly” has become more of a cheer or a pop culture command for approval for something good.

The word “dilly” can mean delightful or wonderful. In a sentence like, “It was a dilly of a game,” it means it was an unusual game or a great game for the most part.

The phase “dilly dally” has been around for a long time meaning “one is messing around or being slow or somewhat pointless in focus.” For example, “The boy just dilly dallies around,” meaning he is isn’t getting much accomplished.

In the 17th century around 1672-1685, there was an English folk song and nursery rhyme, “Lavander’s Blue” or “Lavender Blue.” Singer Burl Ives recorded a version of the song in 1949.

The song’s words:

“Lavander’s blue, dilly dilly, lavender green;

When I am king, dilly dilly, you shall be queen;

Who told you so, dilly dilly, who told you so?

’Twas mine own heart, dilly dilly, that told me so.

There are many verses to the song but all repeat “dilly dilly” over and over.

The song was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Original Song in 1949, but it did not win.

The repetition of a word or words in succession in a sentence is called an epizeuxis. This a word I have never used, but I have used repeated words in succession saying or writing the same word to emphasis a point or an emotion.

Winston Churchill once said, “Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great of small, large or petty, never give in.”

In “Hamlet,” there is the phase, “Words, words, words …”

The 1970s movie title, “Tora! Tora! Tora!”

In “Macbeth,” “O horror, horror, horror”

In 1959, the smooth voice of “doo wop” singer Sammy Turner sang the old English folk song “Lavender Blue” repeating “dilly, dilly” after each line in the song as it rose to No. 3 on the Billboard music charts.

So you see, “dilly dilly” is not a meaningless phrase. It might be fun to say or shout, but these words, like all words, do have meaning.



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