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

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at UMR.EDU
Fri Mar 30 18:23:55 UTC 2007

The American Heritage Dictionary gives /igbo/ as the main pronunciation of Igbo. See the following website, which also provides someone pronuncing the name:
Gerald Cohen
P.S. I'm not sure what the situation is in French.


From: American Dialect Society on behalf of Laurence Horn
Sent: Fri 3/30/2007 10:22 AM
Subject: Re: Fiji zigaboo---(role of "Igbo" tribe?)

At 10:12 AM -0400 3/30/07, Wilson Gray wrote:
>Is "Igbo" pronounced [igbo] in French? In English, it's pronounced
>[ibo], whether spelled "Igbo" or "Ibo," in line with the native
>pronunciation, [ibo].

Really?  At UCLA they taught us it was indeed [i (gb)o], or whatever
you have to do to denote a voiced labiovelar stop (*not* a cluster or
sequence of g+b), with the syllable break as indicated above.


>  Of course, there's nothing in either English or
>French to prevent the spelling pronunciations, [igbo] and [ig at bo].
>On 3/30/07, Cohen, Gerald Leonard <gcohen at> wrote:
>>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>Poster:       "Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at UMR.EDU>
>>Subject:      Re: Fiji zigaboo---(role of "Igbo" tribe?)
>>     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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