A Diller, A Dollar
DESCRIPTION: "A diller, a dollar, A (ten o'clock) scholar, What makes you come so soon? You us'd to come at ten o'clock, and now you come at noon."
EARLIEST DATE: 1784 (Gammer Gurton's Garland)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Opie-Oxford2 465, "A diller, a dollar" (1 text)
Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #81, p. 82, "(A diller, a dollar)"
NOTES: I know of absolutely no traditional collections of this item, and I have no idea what it means. But reading it in Baring-Gould, I remember the first two lines from somewhere, with a fragment of a tune (plus, according to Cyn Collins, West Bank Boogie, Triangle Park, 2006, there was in the Sixties and Seventies a folk music bar/club at the University of Minnesota called the "Ten O'Clock Scholar"), so I am very tentatively including the piece in the Index.
Neither the Baring-Goulds nor the Opies have any idea what this song is about. I will make a very tentative conjecture.
In the Middle Ages, "scholar" effectively meant "cleric," and clerics were expected to rise early to perform rituals at the canonical hours. So a good scholar should have been at service at (in modern terms) 6:00 and 9:00 a.m. A scholar who does not begin to work until 10:00 a.m. -- or, worse, noon -- is a poor scholar indeed. This would fit with the Opies' note that a diller is Yorkshire dialect for schoolboy who is backward in learning.
Of course, this suggestion probably requires that the piece go back before the Reformation, making it two and a half centuries old, at least, by the time it was printed in Gammer Gurton's Garland. Thus my suggestion is *very* tentative. - RBW
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