Ruthie faces the unfamiliar, again

The One Big Happy in my comics feed today:

Rockefellers / rocky fellows. How was Ruthie to know her grandmother was using a proper name? And fellers is a familiar dialect variant for fellows – and an old one (Americans have been labeling feller an “impropriety” or “provincialism”, with an “excrescent” r, since at least 1795, according to DARE).

Ruthie undoubtedly also didn’t know that the Rockefeller family has long been seen as the richest family in the world, hence as the, um, gold standard of wealth. Which gives We’re no / not Rockefellers as an idiom meaning, roughly, ‘We’re not rich’.

And the idiomatic simile as rich as Rockefeller, as in the line from “On the Sunny Side of the Street”:

Now if I never made one cent
I’ll still be rich as Rockefeller
There will be gold dust at my feet
On the sunny
On the sunny, sunny side of the street

(You can listen to a fine Louis Armstrong performance here.)

From Wikipedia:

“On the Sunny Side of the Street” is a 1930 song, with credited music composed by Jimmy McHugh and lyrics by Dorothy Fields. Some authors say that Fats Waller was actually the composer, but he sold the rights for the money. It was introduced in the Broadway musical Lew Leslie’s International Revue, starring Harry Richman and Gertrude Lawrence.

Having become a jazz standard, it was played by such greats as Louis Armstrong, Ted Lewis, Dave Brubeck, Earl Hines, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Erroll Garner, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, James Booker, Count Basie and Lester Young.

Now, the name Rockefeller. Etymologically, there are neither rocks nor fellows in it: according to (not the best source of information, but the best I found in a quick search), the name refers to someone from the village of Rockenfeld in Rhineland-Pfalz, Germany (where the Pennsylvania Dutch come from!), named in Middle High German from rocke ‘rye (the grain)’  + feld ‘open country’. (Mod.Gm. has Roggen for ‘rye (the grain)’.) So a placename ‘rye field’.  (The noun rock has a Romance etymology; fellow is Germanic, originally ‘partner, colleague, buddy, mate’.)

The village of Rockenfeld is rock solid real. It’s near Koblentz, on the way to Cologne.

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