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PhilB

Whiter Than The Whitewash On The Wall

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PhilB

Whiter than the whitewash on the wall!

Whiter than the whitewash on the wall!

Oh wash me in the water that you wash your dirty daughter in,

So that I can be whiter than the whitewash on the wall!

On the wall, on the wall, On the wall, on the wall,

Oh wash me in the water that you wash your dirty daughter in,

So that I can be whiter than the whitewash on the wall!

It seems to be biblical.

"Then Paul said to him, ‘God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!`" Acts 23:3 (NIV)

The implication, however, is that whitewash merely covers over the original dirt with a surface coating. The original foulness remains beneath. (http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=2npv1rg-b8YC&pg=PA84&lpg=PA84&dq=whiter+than+the+whitewash+on+the+wall&source=web&ots=YcJ19aLR28&sig=4J82t6vSBbRHEPlXpecdUJ4JkZo&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=7&ct=result)

I`ve always thought that the Tommies thought that they would actually be cleansed if they were so washed! Is there some other origin for the ditty?

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redorchestra

In 'The Long Trail - Soldiers songs of 1914-1918' it says that the origin of this tune was a Salvation army hymn, and that it was sung widely by regular troops before the Great War.

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centurion

It dates from pre war regular army use. The tune is taken from a Salvation Army hymn tune (as are a number of soldiers songs) so perhaps the words a a parody of some hymn (hence the biblical ring). An alternative line to "That you washed your dirty daughter" was "That you washed the colonel's daughter" not used when officers could hear.

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squirrel

And it could be sung endlessly without having to concentrate on the lyrics - banality to counteract boredom?

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centurion

The Long Trail lists it as 'more often sung in billets and estaminets' so perhaps easy to sing when you've had a few. Some Rugby songs are equally banal (but often ruder).

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hwr21

I believe this is a parody of The Salvation Army song 'Whiter than the snow' written by George Scott Railton (1849-1913) the words of which say:- 

 

Whiter than the snow!

Whiter than the snow!

Wash me in the blood of the Lamb

And I shall be whiter than snow

 

This song is probably inspired from Psalm 51:7 where David cries out "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow". 

 

Many early Salvation Army songs put Christian words to popular tunes from the musical halls and equally, a good number of Salvation Army songs then had alternative lyrics attached to them. Sometimes this was done to ridicule - most often, and I suspect in this case, it was a form of endearment. 

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voltaire60
Posted (edited)

It was apparently one of Churchill's favourite singing-in-the bathtub songs Learned, I beleive while he served with 4th Hussars in India

Edited by voltaire60

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