Q: "New Guinea" in Hawthorne's Salem?

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Apr 29 21:36:33 UTC 2010

This is certainly the way Cooper used it 20 years earlier, in Red Rover.


In the book, "Guinea" is the common address to a particular "negro"--I
have not got through it to see if it's just one person or all such

Aside from geographical use, in the period 1830-50, the most common
appearance was of guinea coin, but also guinea fowl and guinea-worm.
Plus occasional "guinea lottery", the meaning of which I was unable to

Here's another for "guinea negro":

> One said in his prayer last monthly meeting, with great fervour, ' Lord, save we poo black sinner! break up all de debil's work him done in me heart, and save poo African an /me poo Guinea neger/, from dat place where no sun shine, /where no tar twinkle/' It is some encouragement to hear these poor things pray ; and we do hope prayer will prevail against sin, and that this desert will, in answer thereto, be watered and become very fruitful."

> Instances of a similar kind, in relation to the other sex, would fill a volume; a single illustration mas, however, suffice:—
> " A Guinea negro," says a missionary, " whose experience we lately heard, observed respecting himself that from the time he came from the Guinea coast, ' him no able to take word, if any one offend him, me take knife, me take tick, me no satisfy till me drink him blood—now me able to take twenty word ;—den me tief, me drink, ebery bad ting me do. Somebody say me must pray—me say no, what me pray for? rum best pray for me—give me someting good for eat. dat better dan pray.' ' What made you change your mind, then ?' ' Massa, me go to church one Sunday, an me hear massa parson say, Jesus Christ came an /pill/ him blood for /sinner/. Ah, someting say, you heary dat? Him pill him blood! Ah ! so ! den me de sinner, me de tief, me de drunkard! Him pill him blood for Guinea /neger !/ Oh, oh ! Jesus die for poo neger before him know him!'—thinking, as seems quite natural to them, that Jesus becomes acquainted with them just then, because he is just then telling them all they have d!

Another from 1843 Knickerbocker


> Here two negro boatmen, from New Guinea, a small African settlement in the neighboring woods, had consented to meet us, and row us out in their new sedge-boat, which was first called the Pumpkin-Seed, from some allusion to its shape, but afterward from their own names, *The Sam And Jim*. On arriving at the wharf nothing presented itself but the old mill, with its wheel encased in ice, and as far as the eye could reach, the bleak meadows and the tortuous creek, and the Tinnecum bay. But the black gentlemen who were to be our guides did not show their faces, but were probably with the rest of New-Guinea dreaming of clams and eels, or of the gala-day when their new boat, fresh and gaudily painted, was launched into the black waters, below the dam of the Three-Mile Mill.

Even narrowing down "new guinea" appearances between 1840 and 1850 by
chopping off various geographical and navigational terms still leaves
me with over 600 hits and I am not about to go through the whole
bunch. But what I got so far suggests that 1) "guinea" was certainly a
term alternating or conjoined with "negro" and 2) there are at least
some hits that represent "New Guinea" as an "African settlement"--and,
here, it does not mean that it is a settlement in Africa, but rather a
settlement of black slaves or descendants from slaves. But to get a
clearer idea of what is going on with some precision, you need to hire
undergrads to sift through volumes of data.

But with little history that I know, I doubt very much that the slang
"guinea" would have been attached to Italians or other Southern
Europeans before late 1880s (1896 sounds just about right, actually,
but, perhaps, a couple of years late).


On Thu, Apr 29, 2010 at 3:24 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:
> In the "Custom House" preface to _The Scarlet Letter_, Hawthorne
> describes Salem's "long and lazy street ... with Gallows Hill and New
> Guinea at one end ...".
> In the Penguin Classic edition, the footnote by Thomas E. Connolly
> explains "New Guinea" as "a derogatory term applied to an area at the
> head of Essex Street ... spreading from Mill Pond to Summer Street.
> The first immigrants from southern Europe settled there."
> Surely this is a blunder, and the area was instead so-named because
> African-Americans (often natives of, and surely exported from, West
> Africa) settled there?  (Margaret Moore, in _The Salem World of
> Nathaniel Hawthorne_, seems to think so: she mentions Hawthorne's
> description in her section "Hawthorne and Salem Blacks.")
> And the OED has "1.b. A derogatory term for an immigrant of Italian
> or Spanish origin, or one of similar appearance. Also ginny, guinny.
> U.S. slang." only from 1896!  This is consistent with my impression
> that immigration from southern Europe to the U.S. increased much
> later than the 1850 publication date of _The Scarlet Letter_.
> Joel
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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