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German Clockmender, The

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Place Collected: Charlton Kings
Date collected: 1977 (18 May)
Collector: Davies, Gwilym
Roud Number: 241

The humorous double entendre of “clock-winding” combines here with three Anglo-German cultural motifs. The most obvious is the stereotypical oom-pah-pah rhythm of the refrain. The second is the idea that Germans have ridiculous names (like “Herman von Urine,” “Peter von Gherkin,” or “Benjamin Fuchs”). The third is the association of Germans with clocks, Black Forest cuckoo clocks in particular.  And from a different perspective, cuckoos are etymologically connected with cuckolds. No broadsides seem to exist, but the song must have been written before 1914, when Germans ceased to seem so funny.  Some sixty years later, Germans were funny again, and the song entered the “revival” repertoire mainly from a version sung by Charlie Wills of Dorset for the BBC.

Notes by Jon Lighter