bobolition ety ?

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Jun 17 02:41:01 UTC 2008

John Wood Sweet, in "Bodies Politic: Negotiating Race in the American
North, 1730-1830" (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2003), claims such is
part of a derogatory takeoff on black dialect.  The 1819 "Grand
Bobalition" broadside which Mr. Barnhart reported is on page 366, his
section "Bobalition" begins on page 378.  Sweet seems undecided
whether the texts of such broadsides was written by prejudiced whites
or as satires by angry blacks -- or at least I couldn't decide which
he thought.


At 6/16/2008 08:11 PM, Douglas Wilson wrote:

>  Neither DAE nor DA give any attempt at an etymology.
>  ...bolition, -ist is clearly from (a)bolition, -ist.
>  The nub is where does bo- come from.  Perhaps from a West African
>  -----
>  I surely doubt it.
>  The word was apparently originally used in a humorous/derogatory
>manner in an imitation or satire of imagined 'black' dialectal usage,
>AFAIK (maybe I'm wrong; I don't know much about this). Anyone can
>speculate as well as I about various possible pejorative or jocular
>English etyma. There may also be a possibility of a less exciting
>origin of the initial "b[o]-" (such as "Boston"?).
>  -----
>  Is the medial -a- variant (i.e. bobalition) influenced by the
>  initial vowel?
>  -----
>  I suspect it's more-or-less arbitrary.
>  There are also some instances  of the spelling "babolition".
>  I see also a very few instances of "babalation"  etc. ... but
>apparently not in the same sense ... maybe = "hubbub" or so?
>  -- Doug Wilson
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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