Nappy-headed Hos (Was: "Nappy-headed who'es" redux)

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sat May 19 04:07:38 UTC 2007

Given that [hoz] is the usual Black-English pronunciation of "whores,"
i.e. the same as the ordinary pronunciation minus the [r], I choose to
spell it the ordinary way minus the "r." I'm quite flattered that you
and, presumably, the International Maledicta Society, regard it as
"yet another particularly stupid way of writing 'hos'," given the
special respect that we here at ADS-L have for prescriptivism.
Besides, I never would have thought that such a triviality was worth a
comment. I aasume thhat the spellings, "hoes," "hoez," "hose," "hoze,"
etc. you and the IMS would also find to be particularly stupid ways of
writing [hoz].

Please know that I'm quite pleased to take full credit for anything
that I post. If I gave the impression that I was quoting someone else
without proper attribution, I apologize.

As for your poiinting out that "X-to-Y' should have read "Y-to-X," you
are, needless to say, entirely correct.

As for the claim that such European translations would retranslate
into "handkerchief-head(ed)," and not "nappy-headed," in the
black-American sense, that is mine and mine alone.

So, virtually the entire world is concerned specifically with the
shape, condition, or cleanliness of "hair" or to the level of
education of black athletes. Who'd have thought it?

Please allow me to point out that when I wrote "close enough / good
enough for government work," I naturally assumed that my readers would
understand that I did not intend to give the impression that I was
referring to work done for any particular government, even for one as
laughably ignorant and unworthy of notice as that of some sub-Saharan,
black-African backwater.

I didn't provide any kind of citation other than the name of the
newspaper because it seemed to me unlikely that anyone would find
either the original article or my interpretation of it of sufficient
academic interest to be worth even so trivial an amount of effort.
Enough time had passed between the publication of the article and my
post that it seemed to me that anyone who really cared about the topic
would already have found the article and read it for himself. I did,
and I have no real interest in the topic.

Since you've found that post to nothing but wild assumptions and
unsupported claims, it would probably not be worth my while or your
time to submit my collected works to you for refereeing, in hopes of
having them published by some academic press. Thanks to your excellent
and thoroughgoiing critique, I've probably lost any chance of being so
much as mentioned by any serious academic. Well, that's the breaks.


On 5/18/07, ment Reinhold (Rey) Aman <aman at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Reinhold (Rey) Aman" <aman at SONIC.NET>
> Organization: The International Maledicta Society
> Subject:      Nappy-headed Hos (Was: "Nappy-headed who'es" redux)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> [Note: The ADS-L server is rejecting my reply to the post quoted
> below, thus this new thread. Sorry.]
> On 15 May 2007, Wilson Gray wrote:
> > "Nappy-headed who'es" redux
> Questions:
>    (1) Is "who'es" a double-typo or yet another particularly stupid
> way of writing "hos"?
>    (2) Is the quoted material below copied verbatim from the _Boston
> Globe_ or is it paraphrased by the above poster?
>    (3) What material is from the _Globe_ and what are Mr. Gray's
> comments?  The ADS-L reader can't tell who wrote what.  It looks like
> his text quoted below is mostly fancy commentary and extrapolation
> based on Jan Freeman's accurate "Brainiac" piece.
> > The Boston Globe's language maven has an interesting discussion of
> > European attempts to translate the "nappy-" in "nappy-headed."
> > Apparently, no European language has a term that corresponds in
> > meaning to the American use of "nappy" as a descriptor of human hair.
> Says who?  The _Globe_ or Gray?  Apparently only if one disregards
> Hungarian, Austro-Bavarian, Croatian, Turkish, Norwegian, Swedish,
> Dutch, and other European languages, all of which have adjectives that
> distinguish between tightly curled (Negroid) hair and loosely curled
> hair; e.g., German _kraushaarig_ and _kräuselhaarig_ vs. _lockig_.
> > Briefly, Britspeak has "nappy" as "covered with nap" or as a slang
> > term for "napkin" as the equivalent of U.S. "diaper." Hence, British
> > journalists have decided that "nappy-headed" means something like
> > "wearing a diaper-like cloth, such as a bandanna, as a headdress,"
> Says who?  The _Globe_ or Gray?  Which British journalists have
> decided that nonsense or have written about it?
> > cf., e.g. the old Aunt-Jemima, fact-based stereotype. Continental
> > journalists, following their British peers and their own
> > native-language-to-British-English dictionaries, have done the same.
> Or rather, they checked their British-English-to-native-language
> dictionaries, since they had to look up the English word "nappy."
> > That is to say, translation of the European terms back to
> > U.S.-English yields American-BE "handkerchief-head(ed)."
> Says who?  The _Globe_ or Gray?  Sorry, they do *not* yield
> "handkerchief-head(ed)."  In my extensive research, I've found only
> one each Swedish, French, and Italian translator/journalist who used
> "diaper-headed" in their languages (_blöjhövdade, tête de couche,
> pannolini in testa_); all others, from China via Europe to Brazil,
> referred specifically to the shape, condition or cleanliness of *hair*
> or to the level of education and social class of the black athletes,
> but *not* to any type of cloth (bandanna/handkerchief/diaper) worn on
> their heads.
> > This strikes me as close / good enough for government work.
> This is not even good enough for government work in Burkina Faso.
> Finally, there was a reference to the source on which that _Globe_
> piece is based, but why did the poster not mentioned it, so that
> interested ADS-Lers could see for themselves what those
> mistranslations were about?  (Thanks, Arnold and Tom, for posting the URLs.)
> Jan Freeman of the _Boston Globe_ was the first journalist to alert
> her word-loving fans to my long post on "Language Log." Her blog and
> the printed "Brainiac" piece are accurate; Mr. Gray's comments,
> however, are wild assumptions and flawed, unsupported claims.
> --
> Reinhold (Rey) Aman
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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