Raising Cain

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16 comments on this post.
  1. Lisa:

    Re: “raising Ned” (an old folk name for the Devil)

    Interesting that the hyper-religious character on the Simpsons is called Ned (and also that he always plays the devil on the Halloween episodes). Wonder if the writers were aware of this bit of folklore, or if it’s just a co-incidence?

  2. Virginius L. Arnold IV:

    RE: “raising cain”

    I am a native Mobilian, and always understood the phrase to come from Joe Cain, who reserected mardi gras after The War. He dressed as an indian , road his mule in the streets of Mobile, and hense the phrase. That is my uderstanding, I may be wrong.

  3. Donna:

    I share the opinion of the Mobilian in the above comment, but he needed to take it one step further. After the Civil War, with the mood depressed, Joe Cain took it upon himself the try to cheer up the populace by resuming the Mardi Gras celebrations that had been discontinued during the war. For many years after Mr Cain’s death the Mobilians would go to the cemetery and party near his grave with the intent of raising Joe Cain’s spirit.

  4. Vern:

    Just found this site in a search for “raising Ned.” I became curious about the phrase after hearing it in the old Disney film “Davy Crockett and the River Pirates.” (So there is one reference for its use, if anyone is interested.)

    Another curious thing, though, was in searching for the source of the phrase if found many pages talking about the movied “Raising Ned Devine.” Now in the US, that movie was called “Waking Ned Devine,” but it must go by the previous name in some other countries. After reading the source of the phrase, I wonder if the makers of the movie deliberately chose the pun of “raising Ned,” since the movie is about a community trying to make a dead guy look alive (so they can claim his lottery winnings).

  5. Michael:

    I’m an educator of high school English students who just read a sweeping work of psychology called “Raising Cain: Protecting the emotional life of boys”. The authors, Drs. Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, open with the Biblical allusion of Cain and Abel as a pattern the emotional illiteracy and miseducation of boys. While their use of the Biblical allusion does not confirm the etymology of the idiom “Raising Cain”, the frequency by which “Raising Cain” is referencing the first brothers of Genesis may very well eclipse other possible etymologies.

  6. The all knowing:

    Raising cane means to do something that would, in essence, get you cained or whipped.

  7. Bob:

    If referring to sugar cane, then “razing cane” describes what is done to the crop each year. It’s stripped of its leaves while standing, then the entire field is cut off at the roots. Thus you’d literally raze (destroy) the cane.

    However, in researching this by coincidence this evening I discovered that it’s a very old phrase. It means to call up the Devil, i.e. to “raise [raise up, bring forth] hell”. A common term for creating a disturbance.

  8. dorit winer:

    whoops… i used the word “dungarees”…. don’t laugh at great grandma ! well, i now know “sneakers” are again acceptable. L O L

  9. Arne:

    This is from The night they drove old Dixie down:

    Like my father before me, I will work the land,
    And like my brother above me, who took a rebel stand.
    He was just eighteen, proud and brave, But a Yankee laid him in his grave,
    And I swear by the mud below my feet,
    You can’t raise a Caine back up when he’s in defeat.

    Anyone care to elaborate or explain? thanks

  10. bobert:

    typical rock songwriter technique,
    put in something that rhymes to make the bloody song,

  11. Marcy:

    There is nothing in that song that rhymes with Caine. I always thought it meant the family’s last name was Caine.

  12. Briley:

    In the song referenced, the opening line is “Virgil Cain is my name…” He’s referring to Cain as in the family name.

    As far as the “raising Cain” debate, I always assumed it was a Biblical reference. Adam and Eve raised Cain (their son), and in the end it resulted in disaster with the murder of his brother. When you “raise Cain”, it means you’re stirring up trouble. No expert, especially Biblically, just an English major in love with things such as this.

    In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how you interpret it when it is used in conversation. The issue is when it is written out, and you must choose between the spelling “Cain” and “cane”. Like all good papers though, just stick to your guns and use the same spelling consistently! Good luck.

  13. David P:

    I saw a cute crossword puzzle clue today: “She raised cain.” Answer: Eve.

  14. Polyphrene:

    Interestingly, “raising a little Cain” appears in Leonard Cohen’s song “Passing through” an is allways written as “cane” in published lyrics, although it is Adam who is speaking there. I guess that LC played on the double meaning: literal and metaphorical

  15. Huckleberry:

    The old Finn had got drunk and raised Cain (Advenures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain)

  16. Randal:

    There are several alliterative matches with Cain[e] in the verse, although granted they are not as specific as “before me … land” :: “above me … stand” or “brave … grave.” Eigh[teen]and laid, raise and Cain[e] all have that same “ay” sound, and although they are not rhymes in the same manner as the others are, they support the poetic cohesion within the verse. Virgil’s brother is dead, and so is Dixie, defeated, and you can’t bring back that fight anymore. It’s a bit more thought out than just sticking in something that rhymes. The first verse makes the setup more logical when you look at the whole song. “Caine … train … came … again [close sounding]”. i.e. the rhyme has been there all along.

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