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Treat [pronoun] right
Sierra cup
come_to_think
Some years ago, on some venue or other, I asked:  When, in song & story, an American says "He didn't treat her right", is that really as vague as the literal meaning of the words, or are we to understand more specifically "He beat her" or "He was unfaithful to her" or "He didn't satisfy her sexually"?  I can't remember if I got an answer.  This evening, however, I happened on one man's notion of it.  Namely, listening to Dave Van Ronk sing "If You Leave Me, Pretty Momma", I heard

If you leave me, pretty momma,
Better not treat me right.
I'll just have to forget you
After tomorrow night.

That pretty clearly calls for the third interpretation, mutatis mutandis.

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On the other hand, in "Take a Whiff on Me" Woody Guthrie sings:

I know my woman ain't a-treatin' me right --
She don't get home till the day gets light.

That calls for the second interpretation. So maybe it really is just a matter of context.

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