The term Doodle first appeared in the early seventeenth century, and is thought to be derived from the Low Germandudel, meaning “playing music badly” or Dödel, meaning "fool" or "simpleton". The Macaroni wig was an extreme fashion in the 1770s and became contemporary slang for foppishness. The Macaronis were young English men who adopted feminine mannerisms and highly extravagant attire, and were deemed effeminate. They were members of the Macaroni Club in London at the height of the fashion for dandyism, so called because they wore striped silks upon their return from the Grand Tour - and a feather in their hats. They also wore two fob watches: "one to tell what time it was and the other to tell what time it was not" ran their joking explanation. Their love of horse racing at Cheltenham and Bibury (in the UK) can still be recognised today in the names of the 18th Century Macaroni Farm and Macaroni Woods near Eastleach, Gloucestershire, UK. The verse implies that Yankees were so unsophisticated that they thought simply sticking a feather in a cap would make them the height of fashion. Peter McNeil, professor of fashion studies, claims that the British were insinuating that the colonists were womanish and not very masculine.
For this reason, the town of Billerica claims to be the "home" of Yankee Doodle, and claims that at this point the Americans embraced the song and made it their own, turning it back on those who had used it to mock them. A bill was introduced to the House of Representatives on July 25, 1999 (referenced as H. CON. RES. 143) recognizing Billerica, Massachusetts as "America's Yankee Doodle Town." After the Battle of Lexington and Concord, a Boston newspaper reported: "Upon their return to Boston [pursued by the Minutemen], one [Briton] asked his brother officer how he liked the tune now, — 'Dang them,' returned he, 'they made us dance it till we were tired' — since which Yankee Doodle sounds less sweet to their ears."
There is another version attributed to Edward Bangs, a student at Harvard College, who in 1775 or 1776 wrote a ballad with fifteen verses circulated in Boston and surrounding towns. Yankee Doodle was also played at the British surrender at Saratoga in 1777.
On February 6, 1788, Massachusetts ratified the Constitution by a vote of 186 to 168. To the ringing of bells and the booming of cannons, the delegates trooped out of Brattle Street Church. Before many days had passed, the citizens sang their convention song to the tune of "Yankee Doodle." Here are the lyrics to their song...
President John F. Kennedy, from Massachusetts, bought a pony for his little daughter Caroline while he was in the White House. The family named it "Macaroni", after the song Yankee Doodle, although the name refers to the feathered cap rather than the pony.
At the conclusion of the 1981 Wimbledon Championships, in which American tennis star John McEnroe had defeated his long-time rival Björn Borg, TV commentator Bud Collins took note of the July 4th holiday and McEnroe's red-white-and-blue attire, and quipped: "Stick a feather in his cap and call him 'McEnroe-ni'!"Tod Sloan, the Hall of Fame racing jockey, his reputation was such that he was the "Yankee Doodle" in the George M. Cohan Broadway musical Little Johnny Jones and the basis for Ernest Hemingway's short story "My Old Man".
The children's cartoon series Roger Ramjet (1965) adopts "Yankee Doodle" as its theme song: "Roger Ramjet and his Eagles/Fighting for our freedom/Fly through in and outer space/Not to join 'em, but to beat 'em/Roger Ramjet, he's our man/Hero of our nation/For his adventures, just be sure/and stay tuned to this station". Ramjet's four child sidekicks, the "American Eagle Squadron", are named Yank, Doodle, Dan, and Dee.
A Sesame Street parody of the song was done by music writer Don Music, who centered the song around cooking macaroni. In the song, Yankee Doodle stayed at home and cooked macaroni (a fat spaghetti) in a pot for his pony.
^Luzader, John F. (2008). Saratoga : A Military History of the Decisive Campaign of the American Revolution. New York: Savas Beatie. p. 335. ISBN978-1-932714-44-9.
^Gen. George P. Morris - "Original Yankee Words", The Patriotic Anthology, Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc. publishers, 1941. Introduction by Carl Van Doren. Literary Guild of America, Inc., New York N.Y.