flyting and rap

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Mon Jan 5 20:03:03 UTC 2009

Flyting is certainly more strongly associated with Old Norse literature than
with either English or Scottish. The "Lokasenna," or "Flyting of Loki" is
one famous example from the Poetic Edda that appears in the Codex Regius,
copied c.1270.

Fewer examples appear in Old English literature than in medieval Scottish,
although there is a description of an episode of flyting in "Beowulf." So
the flyting tradition in the British Isles is more strongly associated with
Scotland than with England.

Others on the list are more expert in the subject than I, but as I
understand it, some linguists point to the Scotch-Irish dialect of slave
owners and overseers as a stronger influence on African-American speech than
African speech patterns. This could be where Szasz, cited in the Telegraph
article, is coming from.

I'm somewhat skeptical of the link. I think it more likely that the rap
tradition developed independently and recently. After all, insulting one's
friends in a witty manner is a pretty universal custom.

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Amy West
Sent: Monday, January 05, 2009 10:19 AM
Subject: flyting and rap

A museum colleague forwarded this link to me:


I don't know much about rap's origins beyond the connection to
playing the nines, but I'm skeptical of this claim based simply on
the fact that there are probably (again I come up against my
ignorance) many African analogues of flyting that are much more
likely candidates for playing the nines ancestry.

I know that there are Old English and Old Norse analogues as well, so
why limit it to medieval Scotland?

And the 1861 poem that is cited could easily be influenced by those
OE and ON analogues as that's the time period for the rise of OE & ON
philology (and there was plenty of use of medieval literature in that
time period: a couple of colleagues have looked at the use of King
Arthur in popular literature from both the Union and the Confederacy).

Anyone more knowledgeable and better informed than me willing to weigh in?

---Amy West

The American Dialect Society -

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