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Oh father, dear father

If in you besee-ee fit

I'll send him to college for one year yet

I'll tie blue ribbons all around his head

To let the maidens know that he's married

Source: https://genius.com/Donovan-young-but-growing-lyrics

Can you tell what the second line of the excerpt from Donovan's lyrics means? Not able to find the answer on the internet.

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  • That should be "If'n," not "if in."
    – Adam
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 17:07
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's asking for interpretation of song lyrics / poetry Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 17:07
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    I'm not sure if the OP is asking about "if'n" or about "besee-ee". I think it's a reasonable question, subject to the caveat song lyrics are a terrible way to learn standard English.
    – stangdon
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 17:09
  • I do not understand the whole line in bold. If you could rewrite it into standard English, it would be very kind of you.
    – bart-leby
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 17:12
  • @Adam: If this question is indeed about If'n = IF (which I've always assumed was just an affected Southern US dialect, nothing to do with if and when), I might be interested. But I doubt it is, since Donovan is Scottish, so he'd never sing it like that. People like Joan Baez might (though it's not transcribed thusly in that link), but OP has singled out Donovan here. Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 17:16

1 Answer 1

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The transcription given is incorrect. The correct transcription is:

Oh father, dear father

If'n you see-ee fit

I'll send him to college for one year yet

I'll tie blue ribbons all around his head

To let the maidens know that he's married

If'n: may be an archaic contraction of if and, or it may not be - regardless, here it means "if."

besee/see: As noted in the comments, besee is an archaic word meaning "deem." That said, I don't hear the "be" at all in this recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9Y2uM82uHc&t=71

see fit: You see fit means "you approve."

The speaker is asking for permission to take the steps she outlines next. Essentially, the line means:

If it is alright with you, then

I'll send him to school for a year.

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    Per my comment, I don't buy that "folksy" interpretation of Texan ifn. Nor does the Dialect Dictionary, apparently. Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 17:18
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    @bart-leby: It looks like the daughter is asking her (wealthy?) father to bankroll her "too young" husband for another year's schooling before he settles down as the breadwinner for the next generation. Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 17:20
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    @bart-leby - I don't hear the be in the youtube video I found of the song. I hear the word "you" stretched to two syllables to make it fit the meter of the song.
    – Adam
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 17:22
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    Compare Middle English and which can mean "if": Wo hym that is allone! For and he falle, he hath non helpe to ryse.(Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde, l. 695). "Woe to him who is alone. For if he fall, he has no help to stand up." if and becomes if'n
    – TimR
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 17:27
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    besee can mean deem.
    – TimR
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 17:28

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