Bye Baby Bunting

Ohio is the land of porch patriotic bunting, although that is not its slogan on car license plates. Red, white, and blue decorations must be recommended, if not actually required, in every sort of Ohio community.

This particular bunted abode is the former home of William Holmes McGuffey. The writer of the McGuffey Readers series lived in this house from 1826 to 1836:

It was during his years at Miami when McGuffey was approached to write a series of readers for school children. In addition to the work done on these by William Holmes McGuffey, he was assisted by his brother, Alexander Hamilton McGuffey, who also compiled a speller and had sole responsibility for the Fifth Reader. Alexander taught school while working on his law degree and opened a law office in Cincinnati in 1839. The McGuffey Readers sold over 125,000,000 copies.

Why do folks in the Buckeye State bunt so profusely? This was something to consider during the Reds vs. Cubs game which had a few instances of bunting.

1825, "to strike with the head or horns," perhaps an alteration of butt (as a goat), or from M.E. bounten "to return." Baseball term is from 1889. [from the Online Etymology Dictionary]

My old American Heritage dictionary shows bunt as a variant of butt with horns or head. In baseball, it is to bat a pitched ball with a half swing, and with the upper hand supporting the middle of the bat, so that the ball rolls slowly in front of the infielders. Bunt also has a nautical usage, being the middle section of a square sail or the sagging middle part of a fishnet. And then there's the agricultural bunt disease of wheat, rye, and other cereal grasses caused by fungi of the genus Tilletia and resulting in sooty black spores in place of normal seeds. Ick.

What does "bunting" mean?

bunting (1)
"flag material," 1742, perhaps from M.E. bonting gerundive of bonten "to sift," because cloth was used for sifting grain, via O.Fr. from V.L. *bonitare "to make good." [from the Online Etymology Dictionary]

A light cotton or woolen cloth used for making flags. Flags collectively. Long, colored strips of cloth used for festive decoration. [Origin unknown]

bunting (2)
"type of lark-like bird," c.1300, bountyng, maybe from buntin "plump" (cf. baby bunting, also Scots buntin "short and thick;" Welsh bontin "rump," and bontinog "big-assed"), or a double dim. of Fr. bon. [from the Online Etymology Dictionary]

Any of various birds of the family Fringillidae, having short, cone-shaped bills.

A snug-fitting, hooded sleeping bag for infants. [From "Bye, Baby Bunting," a nursery rhyme, origin and meaning unknown.]

Then there's the matter of the buntline. It's a rope that keeps a square sail from bellying when it is being hauled up for furling. Edward Zane Carroll Judson chose the pseudonym Ned Buntline for his sensational newswriting and dime novels about Buffalo Bill Cody.

Where does Ohio fit in this, with its bounty of pleated fan bunting and flag-festooned porches?

I'm only guessing that it dates way back to the "front-porch" presidential campaigns of Ohioans James A. Garfield in 1880 and William McKinley in 1896.

This little side note for folks like me from the hometown of William Jennings Bryan:

"McKinley's opposing candidate, William Jennings Bryan, gave over 600 speeches and traveled many miles all over the United States to campaign, but McKinley outdid this by spending about twice as much money campaigning. While McKinley was at his Canton, Ohio, home conducting his "front-porch campaign", Mark Hanna was out raising millions to help with the campaign." [from Wikipedia]

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

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