Jim Rader jrader at M-W.COM
Wed Aug 4 10:04:17 UTC 1999

The <kanaka> etymology was proposed and quite ably defended by James
Sledd in AS 53:3 (Fall, 1978), pp. 176-78.  I don't think it's all
that farfetched--at least French <canaque> accounts for the
phonetics, unlike the "alteration of Canadian" or "alteration of
<canadien>, with a handwaving dismissal of the unexplained truncation
and the peculiar termination <-uck>.  What's your explanation for
these, Mr. Johnson?  At any rate, "perhaps" in an etymology, at least
at Merriam, marks 50% or less confidence.  <Kanaka> is a hypothesis,
not a statement of fact.

Jim Rader

> And what about improving on the AHD's etymology: "prob. alteration of
> 'Canadian'"?
> P.S. Random House has "Slang (sometimes offensive)", then word-for-word the
> same definition as AHD, then the rather wondrous etymology
> "1825-35; perh. ult. to be identified with _kanaka_ 'Hawaiian, South Sea
> Islander' [literally Hawaiian for 'person'], since both French Canadians and
> such islanders were employed in the Pacific Northwest fur trade; later
> reanalyzed as Can[adian] + a suffix"
> Is it just me, or is that a bit farfetched (literally)?
> The AHD explanation seems more prob. than the RH's.
> (Or perh. it's an alteration of the French 'Canadien' -- but only if French
> Canadians used that word in the early 19th century)
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