Monday, March 2, 2009

Oppossum*, Opposum* (for Opossum*)

Do opposites attract? Bradley Kincaid, an early American folksinger, songwriter, and radio personality, once recorded an early mash-up of "Liza Jane" and "Possum up a 'Simmon Tree." (The lyrics in these two songs show up in a variety of forms, in fact. It was a P2P-sharing paradise back then.) In most recorded versions, Liza Jane is firmly opposed to her suitor, and the possum is opposed by a "raccoon on the ground." Kincaid's rendition was easily arranged as the tunes had the same basic melody, but the results were lyrically arresting. "Liza up in the 'simmon tree / Possum on the ground / Possum said, 'You son-of-a-gun / Shake them 'simmons down.'" Perhaps the most wonderfully absurd of all the confounding wordplay abounding here is this description of the singer's beloved: "Her head is like a coffee pot / Her nose is like the spout / Her mouth is like an old fireplace / With the ashes all raked out." OhioLINK shakes down seven cases of Oppossum* and four of Opposum* (making this a low-hanging typo, but a juicy one). Besides the similar sound of the words themselves, it seems that possums and persimmons really do go together: the latter is a favored foodstuff of the former. I hope America's only marsupial knows enough to wait until the fruit is dead ripe, though, or it's gonna be one numb opossum!

* In honor of my dearly departed Uncle George, who taught me about folk music and took me to countless concerts, coffeehouses, hoedowns, and hootenannies. I hope the grass is blue in Heaven and all the folks are festive.

(Photo from Mammals of Australia, by John Gould, 1863, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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