"Guinea" etymology

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sun May 2 19:14:13 UTC 2010

Joel S. Berson wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: "Guinea" etymology
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 5/2/2010 09:35 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>> ... my impression is that "guinea," as applied to Africans, was not
>> in freq. use in the 1870s and later.
> 1)  When did immigration from Italy begin to increase, presumably in
> the second half of the 19th century?

I think so. In fact, after about 1880 and especially after about 1890, I

> 2)  Assertedly "Guinea" as applied to Africans was well-known in the
> North in the decades just before and after the Civil War.  (I have no
> idea about frequency from the 1870s.)  One has to pass over much
> that's about Papua, but: ....

When I asserted that I believe "Guinea" was (nearly) entirely restricted
to Italians in the late 19th century, I was referring to stand-alone
"Guinea" [noun, person] as in "He is a Guinea" or "A lot of Guineas live
here". I am not referring to "Guinea Coast", "Guinea Negro", etc., and
surely not to "New Guinea" [geographical term] or to other "guinea" words.

I don't think one can infer from "New Guinea" = "'African' neighborhood"
that there was a current term "Guinea" = "'African' person" any more
than "Little Havana" = "'Cuban' neighborhood" implies the currency of
"Havana" = "'Cuban' person".

-- Doug Wilson

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

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