Over the River and Through the Words

Rob Kyff on

As you prepare to stuff your Thanksgiving bird, see whether you can stuff the blanks in this well-known seasonal song:

"Over the river and through the _____, to ___________'_ house we go."

Easy, right? "Woods" and "Grandmother's."


In fact, the right stuff-ins for this turkey tune are actually "wood" and "Grandfather's."

The lyrics for the song come from "Thanksgiving Day," a 12-stanza poem by the 19th-century abolitionist Lydia Maria Child who, when not lambasting slaveowners, was apparently basting turkeys.


In fact, Lydia's original phrasing ("wood" and "Grandfather's") is legally protected by a grandfather clause (which also gave her all North American rights to the song, a 50% cut of foreign video releases and a healthy slice of profits from the "Horse-Knows-the-Way" brand of children's sleds).

So, if you shed the "s" in "wood," Lydia's lawyers will take you to the woodshed. Remember, these are the same guys who prosecuted the Cranberry Eight back in 1968 for changing "white and drifted snow" to "white and drafted snow" as a subliminal anti-war message.

Not to mention "Farmyard gate-gate," the high-level White House scandal in which Richard Nixon was caught on tape singing "straight through the farmyard gate" instead of the correct "barnyard gate." Judging from the uncensored trial transcript, Lydia's angry lawyers clearly favored the "barnyard" epithet.

In the next line, the impatient kids sitting in the back of the sleigh sing, "We seem to go extremely slow; it is so hard to wait" -- the 19th-century equivalent of "Are we there yet?"


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