OT: 'Pied noir' [was: McWhorter on "Negro"]

Salikoko Mufwene s-mufwene at UCHICAGO.EDU
Sun Jan 17 17:24:51 UTC 2010

Wikipedia gives the following etymology for "Pied-Noir":

> The origin of the term /Pied-noir/ is debated. According to the Oxford 
> English Dictionary 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford_English_Dictionary>, it refers to 
> "a person of European origin living in Algeria during the period of 
> French rule, esp[ecially] a French person repatriated after Algeria 
> was granted independence in 1962."^[1] 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pied-Noir#cite_note-OED-0> The /Le 
> Robert <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dictionnaires_Le_Robert>/ 
> dictionary states that in 1901 the word indicated a sailor working 
> barefoot in the coal room of a ship, who would find his feet dirtied 
> by the soot. In the Mediterranean, this was often an Algerian native, 
> thus the term was used pejoratively for Algerians until 1955 when it 
> first began referring to "French born in Algeria."^[5] 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pied-Noir#cite_note-Shephard-4> ^[6] 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pied-Noir#cite_note-Le_Robert-5> This 
> usage originated from mainland French as a negative nickname.^[1] 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pied-Noir#cite_note-OED-0> There is also 
> a theory that the term comes from the black boots of French soldiers 
> compared to the barefoot Algerians.^[7] 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pied-Noir#cite_note-6> . Other theories 
> focus on new settlers dirtying their clothing by working in swampy 
> areas, or trampling grapes to make wine.^[8] 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pied-Noir#cite_note-7> 
/Le trésor de la langue française/ gives the following etymology, which 
is in agreement with the above:
> *Étymol. et Hist.* 1901 «matelot chauffeur sur un bateau à charbon» 
> (ds ESN.); 1917 «surnom donné jadis aux Algériens» (/ibid./); 1955 
> «Français né en Algérie» (/ibid./). Comp. de /pied/* et /noir/*, le 
> surnom viendrait du fait que les chauffeurs des bateaux, souvent 
> algériens, marchaient pieds nus dans la soute à charbon. 

Damien Hall wrote:
> Robin said he had been '(mis)reading "noir" as if it mapped directly onto
> English "black"'. Maybe I'm misunderstanding the misunderstanding, but it
> seems to me as if that _is_ a direct mapping. Algerian-born children of
> French settlers there, like Camus, were referred to as 'pieds noirs'
> because they were said to have one 'black foot' - ie a small 
> proportion of
> their body which had black (in the skin-colour sense) skin - as a 
> result of
> their having been born to white-skinned parents but in an area where the
> natives were dark-skinned. It's a while since my undergraduate 
> dissertation
> on Camus, but I believe the designation 'pieds noirs' was only applied to
> people born in Algeria, not to their French-born parents as well.
> How appropriate that this should have come up ten days or so after the
> fiftieth anniversary of Camus' death!
> Damien
> -- 
> Damien Hall
> University of York
> Department of Language and Linguistic Science
> Heslington
> YO10 5DD
> UK
> Tel. (office) +44 (0)1904 432665
>     (mobile) +44 (0)771 853 5634
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> http://www.york.ac.uk/res/aiseb
> http://www.york.ac.uk/depts/lang/people/pages/hall.htm
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Salikoko S. Mufwene                    s-mufwene at uchicago.edu
The Frank J. McLoraine Distinguished Service Professor of Linguistics and the College
Professor, Committee on Evolutionary Biology
University of Chicago                  773-702-8531; FAX 773-834-0924
Department of Linguistics
1010 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637, USA

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

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