July 9, 2018 - Recently I saw a television ad concerning a certain beer or ale. The male character would swallow a bit of the concoction and say the words “dilly, dilly.” All the other people sitting around the campfire would parrot back the words “dilly, dilly.”
Those two little words, “dilly, dilly” conjured up a memory of years ago. I recalled them being used in a song way back when I was a young lad. Naturally I had to do a little research and discovered that these words were popular back in the 1950s in a song titled “Lavender’s Blue.” I read the words of the song and they all came flooding back in my mind.
The song is an English folksong and a nursery rhyme dating back to the 17th century. The earliest surviving version of the song is in a broadside printed in England between 1672 and 1679 under the name The Kind Country Lovers. It was to be sung to the tune of “Lavender’s Blue”, implying that a tune by that name was already in existence. The lyrics printed are fairly bawdy by celebrating sex and drinking.
There are almost thirty verses to the song and some variations of each verse. The typical verses, sung in the 1950s by artists Burl Ives, Sammy Kaye, Dinah Shore, and Sammy Turner, include the following:
“Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly, lavender’s green,
When I am king, dilly dilly, you shall be queen;
Who told you so, dilly dilly, who told you so?
‘Twas my own heart, dilly dilly, that told me so.
Call up your men, dilly dilly, set them to work,
Some with a rake, dilly dilly, some with a fork;
Some to make hay, dilly dilly, some to thresh corn,
Whilst you and I, dilly dilly, keep ourselves warm.”
There are many more verses, but I shall not bore the reader with listing them here.
So far we have not found the real meaning of the word “dilly” in English. The closest one I can find is that it means “an excellent example of a particular type of person or thing”…e.g. – “That’s a dilly of a breakfast.”
Now, back to the commercial I mentioned. It appears that the writers of the commercial are using this old English word to mean “ditto to that,” or “I agree!” One actor takes a swig of the brew, holds it high in the air, and all the others repeat “dilly dilly”, meaning, “We heartedly agree with your statement.”
I don’t’ care for the product, but the commercial is pretty impressive...dilly dilly!