The Nations

This morning, while I was walking the dog, I thinking about The Nations some more and I was wondering if there were any things that it could mean–like could it be short for something? “The Nation’s Best Donuts” or “The Domination of Mankind?”

And then I remembered that there is a known thing that “Nation” has been shortened from–Donation. Robert Johnson sings about his woman’s “nation sack.”

The nation sack has been the source of a lot of controversy over the years, but it appears that Memphis prostitutes called their purses their donation sacks as a joke poking fun at the donation sacks of tent-revival preachers, which then got shortened to “nation sack” and sometimes conflated with the hoodoo nature sack.

So, that’s a somewhat nearby usage of the term. But I’m not sure what might have been happening in The Nations. But could it have been prostitution? “I’m going to make my donation to the girls.” becomes “I’m going to the Nations.” Or tent revivals?

4 thoughts on “The Nations

  1. Was it “donation land”? There is donation land in many places (PA, OH, IN) granted by the federal government as incentives for Revolutionary soldiers who otherwise might have bailed. Or maybe it was land donated by somebody?

    I take it that the idea that it was where the other nations (Chickasaw, etc) camped out during their summer visits has been disproved by someone? Nashville’s antiquarians loved to focus on moments of conflict but are there any archaeological reports about periodic occupancy? Looking at the map, looks like a nice camping spot.

  2. Other nations did visit there while confabbing with James Robertson. But the stories have only focused on the Chickasaw “Nations.”

  3. True fact: now that I know this, nation sacks will appear in an upcoming hobomancer novel. Is it strictly a Memphis thing?

  4. I’m honestly not sure. It definitely appears to be a Memphis-centered thing, but if I had to draw a diagram of where I would expect turn of the century Memphis slang used by prostitutes to be at least slightly known, I would draw a circle with Memphis at the center that reached to Jackson, TN and call that “probably known” and then I’d have a lighter shade of that same color that went all up and down the river and out the train spurs and call that blob “don’t be surprised to find they know it.”

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