I presume that when Donald Trump visits Britain he will be greeted with many renditions of “Yankee Doodle Dandy”: the alternative American national anthem. But does he know what the song is actually about?
It is not generally realised that the word “doodle” is an 18th century slang term for a thickoe: a stupid person; and that the song is a satirical attack on the stupidity of Americans. In each verse, the Yankee Doodle does a succession of ridiculous things, but always believes himself to be marvellous. Even the lines when he “stuck a feather in his hat, and called it macaroni”, which sound like outright nonsense, are part of this: a “Macaroni” signified a young man-about-town who dressed in the latest Italian fashions. Yankee Doodle is so naïve that he thinks that merely sticking a feather in his hat elevates him to the height of fashion. All in all, the song looks highly appropriate for Mr Trump.
The case of alternative or substitute national anthems is always odd. In Britain nowadays the Scots sing “Flower of Scotland”, which is not a traditional song at all, but was composed by Roy Williamson of the folk group, the Corries, about 1969. And what do the English have as their alternative national anthem? “Jerusalem”!