Grant Smith gsmith at EWU.EDU
Thu Aug 5 17:58:28 UTC 1999

I meant to send this message to the list originally.  As usual, Barry's
work was thorough and very good.

>Date: Wed, 4 Aug 1999 10:04:41 -0800
>To: jrader at
>From: Grant Smith <gsmith at>
>Subject: Re: Canuck
>Barry Popik traced the uses of this term in 1997 in detailed contributions
>to this list (see archives) and in a paper presented at the American Name
>Society meeting in Toronto (Dec. 28).  Several Canadian newspapers covered
>his presentation and made the story available to AP (but I did not hear if
>other newspapers printed it).
>>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'"?
>>> DEJ
>>> 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)

Grant W. Smith, President                       Phone:  509-359-6023
American Name Society                           Fax:    509-359-4269
Prof. English/Coord. Humanities                 Email:  gsmith at
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