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

Reinhold (Rey) Aman aman at SONIC.NET
Sat May 19 19:04:21 UTC 2007

Wilson Gray wrote:

Nota bene:  Top-posting is amateurish and makes it difficult for the
reader to follow the argument.  Adding one's comments after each
paragraph referred to is the standard, intelligent, and *considerate*
way, as I'm doing it below.  (But you know that, of course.)  Because
of your top-posting, the reader has to scroll way down to my post to
see what your remarks are about and then scroll back up to continue.
Good job, but worse than in Burkina Faso.

> 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."

Spelling it "who'es" is too idiosyncratic; it looks like it should be
pronounced /'hu,iz/ (rhyming with "lues").  If the reader has to
figure out what that weird word could mean and how to pronounce it,
old-fashioned and pedantic editors and language teachers like me
consider such quirky spellings "particularly stupid."  Nothing
personal, of course.  Even the smartest ones among us occasionally do
stupid things.

> I'm quite flattered that you and, presumably, the International
> Maledicta Society, regard it as "yet another particularly stupid way
> of writing 'hos',"

No, just me.  There are a handful of long-time _Maledicta_ subscribers
and member of our society among the ADS-L regulars, but I don't speak
for them.  However, since they belong to the intellectual élite, they
will no doubt agree with me.

> given the special respect that we here at ADS-L have for
> prescriptivism.

Between you and I, I dont care alot what the semiliterate
laissez-faire crowd and it's defender's think of we prescriptivist's.
Its there problem if they wanna look iggerant. LOL.

> Besides, I never would have thought that such a triviality was worth
> a comment.

Your eccentric spelling of "hos" may be a triviality to you, but it's
a _hapax legomenon_ to me.

> 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].

Not at all.  They are just attempts of representing the BE
pronunciation of "whores."  Of all the variants I have seen (including
"hoe's" and "ho'z"), you are the only one who uses the misleading <w>
and <'es>.  That's why I correctly characterized it as "particularly stupid."

> 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.

You certainly gave the impression that you quoted from the _Boston
Globe_ and thereby besmirched that journalist's reputation.  That's
why I asked about who wrote what.

And here's a good example why top-posting is bad:

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

Unless the reader remembers what I wrote (unlikely) or scrolled down
to find out what this could be about (also unlikely), your _mea culpa_
is meaningless.  Always remember:  top-posting sucks.

> 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.

Thank you for acknowledging this major mistake as yours and clearing
the _Globe_ journalist.

> 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?

All the incompetent translators and journalists who had never heard of
"nappy-headed" before, and now also their misled readers worldwide.

> 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,

That phrase normally refers to the U.S. Government.

> even for one as laughably ignorant and unworthy of notice as that of
> some sub-Saharan, black-African backwater.

Who says the government workers in Ouagadougou are laughably ignorant
and unworthy of notice?  I even gave them credit for being smart
enough to reject your "translation of the European terms back to
U.S.-English yields American-BE 'handkerchief-head(ed)'."  They may be
black, but they ain't stupid, you know.

> 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.

Okay, good enough excuse.

> I did, and I have no real interest in the topic.

Hmmm, and I was under the impression that this topic is right up your
alley (I've been lurking in ADS-L for years), with you posting your
fancy interpretation of Jan Freeman's information and even conjuring
up non-existing British journalists and bandannas.

> 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.

Au contraire, mon frère.  If your collected works are anything like
your post, the typical cacademic peer reviewer would be delighted to
recommend your oeuvre to, say, Slippery Rock University of
Pennsylvania Press, provided you use many more neologisms, wacky new
spellings, and especially much turgid bullshit.

I do appreciate your appreciation of my analytical and editorial
skills, but as for I (is this anti-prescriptivist enuff?), I'm too old
and worn out after having written or edited and typeset more than
3,600 polyglot pages to take on new books.

In fact, I'm in the process of burying the belovèd _Maledicta_ killed
by the Internet, by hordes of obsessed short-attention-span posters
and URL-to-URL-hopping click-click-clickers, and by zillions of
language-oriented professors too cheap to spend a few bloody bucks to
buy beautiful books.  But I digress.

> 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.

Don't give up hope, my friend.  If you flatter those cacademic
attention-who'es, you may still end up as a footnote in a 12-page
peer-reviewed article produced with the help of five teaching
assistants and a $200,000 government grant.

> -Wilson

Pax vobiscum,

~~~ Reinhold (Rey) Aman ~~~

> On 5/18/07, ment Reinhold (Rey) Aman wrote:

> > [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 mistrans-
> > lations 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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