On this 1933 recording


Clarence Ashley clearly sings

There are a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
Where many poor boys to destruction has gone
And me, oh God, for one

"There are a house in New Orleans" and "many poor boys to destruction has gone".

So what "are" and "has" are doing there? What's going on with plurals in this text?

Mother wiki says: "Ashley was born ... in Bristol, Tennessee in 1895, the only child of George McCurry and Rose-Belle Ashley". That doesn't suggest English is not his native tongue.

Is it a dialect?

  • That is pretty weird. But yes, totally a native speaker, kind of a backwoods country accent. I have a hard time imagining those two uses are natural though.
    – Mitch
    Apr 29, 2020 at 21:26
  • 1
    Song lyrics (and poetry) often cannot be be analyzed in terms of grammar. Apr 29, 2020 at 21:28
  • 1
    I hear They are a house, which is still strange, but not ungrammatical.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 29, 2020 at 21:30

1 Answer 1



"House of Rising Sun" was said to have been known by miners in 1905.[6] The oldest published version of the lyrics is that printed by Robert Winslow Gordon in 1925, in a column "Old Songs That Men Have Sung" in Adventure magazine.[9] The lyrics of that version begin:[9][10]

There is a house in New Orleans, it's called the Rising Sun

It's been the ruin of many poor girl

Great God, and I for one.

The version in your recording is intentionally rendered "illiterate", to sound more "country", and possibly to hint at an African-American origin.

  • "of many poor girl", not "girls" :-( Oh my. So you think this is done on purpose.
    – user6171
    Apr 30, 2020 at 14:31
  • Understand that the quoted lyric was transcribed from oral, and very likely an "a" before "poor" was weakly voiced.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 30, 2020 at 14:35

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