I just discovered the wonderfully named 'Dogging Around' performed Jackie Wilson, who suggests his girl had "better stop dogging around". I must admit that at first I misread it as Nancy Wilson, and wondered what had happened to her between 'Fly Me to the Moon' and 'The Best Is Yet To Come' but that's by the by. Now those of you not familiar with the activity currently referred to as 'dogging' may want to look away now. The Urban Dictionary tells us it "derives from the term 'walking the dog'. It is a pastime that has evolved from blokes taking their dogs for walks and stumbling across couples at it in bushes etc." you can guess the rest. It does give a contextual use: "I'm just taking the dog out for a walk love", "Okay, don't be 5 hours this time, and try not to get so muddy". Mr Wilson had a hit with his song in 1960 when I dare say "dogging" meant something else, though judging from the rest of the lyrics I'm not so sure: "Now you know you go out nights, to have yourself a ball, sometimes you don't make it home at all." Either way, Mrs Wilson is clearly a tart.
Changing definitions is a can of worms the Great American Songbook is always poised to prize open at a moment's notice. The most obvious explain being the word 'gay'. Examples are too numerous but I particularly remember being mortified as a self-conscious teenager in an am-dram production of ‘South Pacific’ singing 'Younger Than Springtime'. Dressed in a very cheeky US Army uniform belting out "younger than springtime am I, gayer than laughter am I" still makes me wince.
For my personal amusement I always enjoy singing the verse of Harry Warren's 42nd Street standard 'You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me': "I just wanted someone to be gay with... [pause to observe repressed teenage sniggers]... to play with, someone." As a side note, I once read a suggestion that the word 'gay' be reclaimed by those who mean simply 'joy' and that homosexuals should invent their own word. He suggested "homex".
There's a lovely little ditty "How d'ya like to Spoon With Me", a charming duet with little answer phrases from the object of desire, the spoonee so to speak: "How d'ya like to spoon with me? [I like that] How d'ya like to spoon with me? [Well rather}" etc. To "spoon" of course, means to canoodle, but I rather prefer to think of it as a song about sharing a tub of Benny and Jerry's Chunky Monkey in front of the telly.
Some words a so deliciously out dated they simply need to be sung. One of my favourites 'Why Shouldn't I?' has the line "all debutantes say it's good" and since we've recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the last debutante season it maintains precisely zero relevance today. But who'd dare change Cole Porter's lyrics, and why? Actually Frank Sinatra probably would, he often did.
If that fails you could copy Jamie Cullum and just stick the odd "fuck" in here and there. Not exactly the sophisticated wit of Ira Gershwin but the young people do seem to like it.
Should standards be subject to reworking with a modern twist? There's always someone doing 'Macbeth' set on a council estate or 'The Mikado' on roller-skates. Personally I think not. These songs are crafted by true masters and it's a brave man who'll meddle with Mercer or contemporise Cole Porter.
Naturally, singers do like to try and inject a little modernity in to their repertoires. Ralph Freed's 'How About You' originally read "and Franklin Roosevelt’s looks, give me a thrill" which given the time (1941) and the movie (Babes on Broadway) made sense. Nowadays you'll find any number of alternatives. I've personally heard the great president's name replaced with "and Katie Price's looks" or "and David Beckham's looks" and I myself once sang "and George W Bush's looks, make me quite ill". I immediately regretted it.
As John Wilson once told me as I added an extra word during a recording of 'More Than You Know', "what's wrong with the original? If you're going to start making up words you might as well sing 'I've Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts." Quite.