Hip, hep, dig, dogie. (Was Re: More on Wolof "hip")

Wilson Gray wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Fri Dec 10 20:01:45 UTC 2004

On Dec 9, 2004, at 7:01 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM>
> Subject:      Hip, hep, dig, dogie.  (Was Re: More on Wolof "hip")
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> Good article, Jesse.
> Based on Dalby's 1969 suggestion, I wrestled with the likelihood of
> "hip / hep" as well as "dig" > Wolof. These etymologies are certainly
> appealing at first blush. ( Let me add here that, in early use (before
> about 1945) "hep" was at least as common as "hip" and in fact was used
> by many jazz musicians,

e.g. by no less a light than Cab Calloway in The Jumping Jive:

"The jim-jam jump
   The jumping jive
   Makes you dig your jive
   On the mellow side
   Hep! Hep!"

My own experience is that "hep" was as hip as "hip" on the colored
street till about 1950 in St. Louis.

-Wilson Gray

>  by definition the "heppest" people in America.)
> Any further discussion of "dig" as having a clear Wolof origin should,
> I suggest, take into full account the citational evidence in HDAS I,
> incl. the cross-ref. to British cant "dick."
> Of great significance is that nobody has discovered a single hip, hep,
> or dig in any pre-20th C. African-American source, including the
> extensive interviews with elderly ex-slaves carried out by the WPA all
> over the South.  Had these terms enjoyed any notable currency among
> black Americans of the period of ca.1860-1925, one would expect some
> recorded examples.  Minstrel songs - admittedly not sources of choice
> -  didn't use them either.
> In addition, it was the opinion of several black New Orleans jazz
> greats that "dig" was introduced in the late '20s by Louis Armstrong.
> Where he got it from, nobody knows. And nobody ever asked him while
> they could.
> In short, not only is there no direct evidence that these words (plus
> other jazz-related terms noted by Dalby like "jitterbug," "alligator,"
> and "hepcat"), there is no early indirect evidence either. Their
> documented occurrence in 19th (or better yet, 18th) century
> African-American speech would make such etymologies plausible, though
> not ipso facto certain. Their apparent complete absence from records
> where they might plausibly be found completely undercuts (for now) the
> idea that they were brought from Wolof or any other African language
> yet to be nominated.  The importation of African slaves had dwindled
> to a comparative trickle by the time it was was outlawed in the early
> 19th C.  So black speakers would have had to have maintained the
> currency of these putative Africanisms for generations to transmit
> them, without a written trace, from Africa to the big-band era.
> Perhaps hastily,  I acceded in HDAS 1 to the idea (Dalby's, I think)
> that "dogie" might have an African etymon. In the intervening ten
> years I have seen no further discussion of this  possibility, which
> struck me as unlikely but well worth considering.  (DARE suggests a
> derivation from cute little "doggie."  I doubt it.)
> JL

Re "I doubt it":  Amen, brother! The Holy Ghost has descended upon the
man and he is preaching! Can I get a witness?! Git along, little

-Wilson Gray
> Wilson Gray <wilson.gray at RCN.COM> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Wilson Gray
> Subject: Re: More on Wolof "hip"
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> On Dec 9, 2004, at 4:36 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender: American Dialect Society
>> Poster: Laurence Horn
>> Subject: Re: More on Wolof "hip"
>> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>> -
>> --------
>> At 4:02 PM -0500 12/9/04, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>> On Dec 9, 2004, at 3:11 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>>>> that "toke" is more likely from Span. toccare, etc.
>>>> etc.
>>>> Larry
>>> I assume that "toccare" is a lapsus digiti for "tocar." And, FWIW, if
>>> it is from Spanish, it's
>>> more likely to be from some variety of North-American Spanish than
>>> from
>>> Castilian.
>>> -Wilson
>> Oops. Lapsus mentalis, more like. It's actually an application of
>> the well known rule of "_tocar_, from Vulgar Latin *" deletion on my
>> part. This is AHD3 speaking, and the derivation is prefaced by a
>> "perhaps", and comes via "toque". No details on which variety of
>> Spanish. The OED is, as usual, more cautious and just has "origin
>> uncertain" for both the verb and the (relevant) noun.
>> L
> The form "toque" ['toke] is the polite singular imperative of "tocar."
> Its
> most-easily-remembered-by-someone-who-last-studied-Spanish-during-the
> -1967-68-school-year meaning is "touch." But that doesn't mean that it
> couldn't have had the relevant meaning as a slang term or been
> misunderstood by the non-Spanish-speaking as having that meaning.
> According to various histories of the use of weed, it was introduced by
> Mexican stoop-laborers to their black-American counterparts. This is
> where the Mexican-Spanish bit is relevant. Later, when blacks became
> in, the use of grass was passed on to whites. I don't vouch for the
> truth of this, since it's only something that I read somewhere, five to
> 25 years ago.
> -Wilson
> __________________________________________________
> Do You Yahoo!?
> Tired of spam?  Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around
> http://mail.yahoo.com

More information about the Ads-l mailing list