James A. Landau
JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM
Mon Oct 2 10:05:26 EDT 2017
On Mon, 2 Oct 2017 02:58:43 Zone + 0000 "Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at MST.EDU> wrote:
>Would Margaret perhaps be able to tell us a bit about the
>state of her research. Also, does it include the lexicon, e.g.
>cakewalk" and "rock 'n' roll"?
>Margaret Lee <mlee303 at YAHOO.COM>, 9/30/2017 11:50 a.m. wrote:
>That is my ongoing research: the appropriation of Black Language by
>mainstream (white) America.
"Cakewalk" has an interesting history. From a random Web page http://pratie.blogspot.com/2007/01/about-cakewalk-and-golliwog.html (I have no idea of the accuracy of the quoted text below). Note that it contains an etymology for "takes the cake". The second paragraph suggests a crossover from white to black rather than black to white.
the Cakewalk dance was invented (called the chalk walk) around 1850 by slaves who imitated a solemn processional dance of the Seminole Indians.
It developed into a parody of the minuets and promenades danced by the upper-class whites in the "Big House." The slave parodists included "dignified walking, flirting, prancing, strutting, bowing low, waving canes, doffing hats, and a high kicking grand promenade."
For entertainment, plantation owners pitted their best "slave walkers" against each other. The prize would be a hoecake wrapped in cabbage leaf (origin of that takes the cake!) ... and the name "Cakewalk" was now set.
"By the 1890's, the Cakewalk was the hottest thing around ... The Cakewalk was the first American dance to cross over from black to white society as well as from the stage (Minstrel shows) to ballroom. The Cakewalk would be the window for other African-American dances to enter white society in the future. Many of the upper class Summer and Seaside hotels would feature a Cakewalk at the end of the season."
It wasn't just "mainstream (white) America". Claude Debussy's "Children's Corner" (published in 1908) includes "The Golliwogg's Cakewalk". I have heard conflicting stories about how "Golliwogg" became part of the title.
- Jim Landau
Netscape. Just the Net You Need.
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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