Fiji zigaboo---(role of "Igbo" tribe?)

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at UMR.EDU
Fri Mar 30 13:48:25 UTC 2007

    Still in full speculative mode: One of the tribes in Nigeria is the "Igbo." For the French they would be "les Igbo," which might be misinterpreted slightly as "les Zigbo." Then with the insertion of schwa (as in U.S. variant "athuhlete" = athlete): Zigabo.  For French influence in Nigeria see

    "Fiji" has nothing to do with Africa but was viewed popularly by Americans as a primitive, exotic place with a dark-skinned population, and I suppose that's why "Fiji" was linked to "zigaboo."

   If at all possible, I'd like to avoid the etymology of "zigaboo/jigaboo" being invented as nonsense syllables. Hence the present search for alternatives.

    Also, I note the following website on Google

and what interests me is the mention there that the African Igbo tribe had been regarded as savages or mindless tribals. That misperception is all that would be needed to propel "les Igbo" into an ethnic slur in the early 20th century. The full statement on the website is::

   'Chinua Achebe has penned the book "Things Fall Apart" as retaliation against the Western books portraying African cultures and tribal religions as brutal, savage and animalistic. He attempts to portray through his book that the people of the African Igbo tribe are not savages or mindless tribals, they are a people with a history and a culture and a well thought out way of life. He also tries to give a realistic portrayal of the Igbo tribe`s traditions, festivals, social hierarchy and religious activities, along with the effect of Imperialism on the tribe and its people, with special reference to the hero of the book, Okonkwo, drawing a parallel between his fall and the tribe`s fall in the face of colonialism.'

Gerald Cohen

The American Dialect Society -

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