Matt: Lately I’ve been throwing out the phrase “Jimmy crack corn, and I don’t care” while amongst friends for humorous/irritating effect. I’ve just realized, however, that I’ve no idea where this phrase came from (an old nursery rhyme, maybe?) and what this odd business with Jimmy and the corn really means. Any ideas? — Jed, Pacific Beach
You sound like a million laughs, Jed, a million.... You’re having flashbacks from that big Burl Ives marathon. The line’s from the chorus of his signature ditty, “Blue Tail Fly.” It’s an American folk song, at least 150 years old, and supposedly an anti-slavery statement. Two versions of the words and music exist — “Jimmy crack corn, and I don’t care, my master’s gone away” and a now-forgotten “Gimmie cracked corn, and I don’t care....” Dictionaries of regional American speech define “to crack corn” as “to snore.” “Cracked corn” was another term for whiskey. No ID on Jimmy, I’m afraid.
And now that you know, will you stop saying it? I don’t even hang out with you, but I’m bugged just thinking about it.