Fiji zigaboo

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Fri Mar 30 12:41:41 UTC 2007

Using a primitive technology available here in my office, I just listened to a phonograph record that I happen to own, titled simple "Leadbelly" (Everest Records: Archive of Folk Music FS-202), which I acquired c1970; the album is proudly said to be "electronically stereotized." Anyhow, in "The Bourgeois Blues" (the first track) Ledbetter is clearly saying "-zhwa" for the second syllable; the first sounds like [bU-] to me, but I'm not certain. Definitely non-rhotic.

Legend has it that Ledbetter wrote the song after being cornered in New York City by some leftists "agitators" who endeavored to recruit the singer (echoes of Ellison's _Invisible Man_). So quite possibly Ledbetter was imitating a pronunciation not quite natural for him, an affricate-American.


---- Original message ----
>Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2007 23:21:13 -0400
>From: Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>Subject: Re: Fiji zigaboo
>At 10:32 PM -0400 3/29/07, Wilson Gray wrote:

>>FWIW, "zh," for all practical purposes, is non-occurrent in BE: French "Jeanne," the name of a friend of mine, is non-distinct from "John"; "(Missouri) hoosier" > "hoojie"; "garage  rouge" > "garaj  rooj," etc. All this and more is alive and kicking in the speech of your humble correspondent, irrespective of the register that he may be using.

>Is that true generally, or does it depend on the lexical item?  I just checked Taj Mahal's version of Leadbelly's "Bourgeois Blues" on my iTunes, and it's definitely ['bu zhwa] each time (and there are many such).  I seem to recall Leadbelly's original also has it as "boo-zhwa", sans affrication (and sans rhotic).

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list