Poke salad Annie & folk etymology

The 1969 song, covered by many artists, gives rise to some misunderstandings, especially if you are not from the South. My wife, from East Texas, knew all about poke salad and poke sacks. I didn’t. I thought the “poke” was the greens gathered to put into the sack; it turns out ’poke’ is Scottish for sack, so, as is common, we have two words meaning the same thing used together.

Now poke in the song is spelled ’polk’ on the album. I have no idea how that happened, but there is no doubt the word is ’poke’.

Now ’salad’ is even spelled ’sallet’ in an interview with the song writer. The word is indeed sallet:

“Sallet is an old English word that means “cooked greens,” and should not be mistaken for “salad”; in fact, a great many cases of Pokeweed poisoning result from this linguistic mistake. While it may be that record companies labeled the song “salad” the dish in question was a sallet.”

Another definition mentions that ’sallet’ means ’a mess of greens’, ’mess’ being a Middle English word meaning……. a bunch of cooked greens. I always say ’mess’ b/c when I moved into the Black community, that’s what everyone said. That gives new meaning to the expression I heard so often: “Boy, you’re a mess.” Maybe they meant I was green?

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