Fiji zigaboo

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Sat Mar 31 14:13:41 UTC 2007

Last night, while cogitating on nothing in particular, I thought about the exclamation "bushwa" as sort of minimally-pairably with "bourgeois" in some dialects.  I have heard "bushwa" only once or twice live and a few times on TV or in movies, but I figured it meant something like exclamatory "rot" or "balderdash"--used in a rather prissy register by prissy people (I may be wrong about that).

The OED gives as the etymology for "bushwa" this: "app. a euphemism for _bullshit_." But is that notation really about etymology or just about usage? HDAS says, mirabile dictu, "prob. < F _bourgeois_," and Jonathan includes (together with the 'bullshit' meaning) the slang use of "bushwa" to designate a bourgeois!


---- Original message ----
>Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2007 08:41:41 -0400
>From: Charles Doyle <cdoyle at UGA.EDU>
>Subject: Re: Fiji zigaboo
>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).

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