Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Hunky-Dory Minstrel Show

Have you ever heard the word “hunky-dory” (Superlatively good) used in a sentence and wondered where it came from? I have always wondered. I first heard a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy say it when someone asked how his day was going; he stated that everything was “hunky-dory!” So, from that point I thought it was just something that corny older white men said to describe their day. *giggle*




Well, that was until I read about a man named Thomas Dilward (aka Japanese Tommy). Mr. Dilward was one of the first African American Minstrel performers performing on stage before the Civil War. He performed with a troupe called, the Christy's Minstrels. Thomas Dilward excited and thrilled white audiences with song, dance, and violin (note: I'm going to refrain from expressing my disdain for minstrelity just to keep this a short post). Also, I imagine that audiences were intrigued by size.

Anyway, it turns out that the word is attributed to Thomas Dilward; researchers say that Dilward introduced the word (Hunkidori) in his stage act during early 1860s. It is closely related to the Japanese term, “honcho-dori,” which means “main street” or “easy street.” Who knew that a Minstrel Show could be so hunky-dory?


Note: They referred to Thomas Dilward as “Japanese Tommy” on stage to conceal his identity as an African American and to retain the large white audience base who, ironically, did not want to see a black person performing in black face.


Sources: wikipedia.org, phrases.org.uk, ocf.berkeley.edu

12 comments:

Rethabile said...

Thanks, bro.

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

great lesson, i never knew where the word came from but i do remember old television shows talking about the honky dory show

Stephen Bess said...

Rethabile-
Thank you.

T Stephens-
I was just actually researching info on Japanese Tommy when I saw that little fact about him. So, I decided to blend that info. Thanks, bro.

Lovebabz said...

This is very interesting and a bit unnerving becsue I am always taken a back at what we are just learing about our origins in America. (sigh)

On another note...one that is more self indulgent and rooted in self-absorption (smile)

I will be celebrating my 45 birthday on May 2. I am asking all the cool people I love and respect to pen a poem, prose or love missive on my behalf. I will post them and bind them into a book. I love the way you think and write. I am hoping that you will pen something in honor of me...a women you know so little about. Although you did say "I was cooler than a shade tree" which by the way still tickles me! Email me if you like. Lovebabz@gmail.com

I do hope you will consider doing it...even though you have no affinity for me. I love your style and I am convinced that whatever you do it will be funky!

Analía said...

hunky-dory...interesting my brown friend (remember?):) Hey! It's so cool coming here and always learn something!!
Be blesses dear dear dearrrrrr friend.

NinaMM said...

Hmmm! Learned something!

Stephen Bess said...

Lovebabz-
It would be my pleasure. Thanks.

Analia-
Where have you been? Good to see you. Yes, I remember. I'm happy that you are able to take something from this blog. I'll come visit. *Big Hug*

Nina-
Good to see you. How are you?

ninamm said...

I'm good! How about you? I was fighting allergies for what seemed like too long, but I feel alot better now. AND a severe case of ennui set in. What can I say -- my muse is temperamental. LOL

Writer on Board said...

What's up, Stephen! (Did you just giggle?)

Stephen Bess said...

Alex-
Specifically, I giggled, yawned, and *smiled* :)

historianlover said...

Wow, good bit of historical fact. I learned something new and enjoyed your blog.

Anonymous said...

"They referred to Thomas Dilward as “Japanese Tommy” on stage to conceal his identity as an African American and to retain the large white audience base "

No way.

Dilward was called "Japanese Tommy" as a marketing move. The Japanese Embassy toured American cities in 1860. Dilward's performing name was changed from "Little Tommy" to "Japanese Tommy" because a member of the Japanese delegation named "Japanese Tommy" was very popular. The minstral show promoters wanted to capitalize on the name.

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