"Guinea" etymology

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon May 3 01:19:48 UTC 2010

At 5/2/2010 03:14 PM, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:
>Joel S. Berson wrote:
>>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

I'd love to see some figures (as are available for Irish immigration
for much of the 19th century.)

>>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".

I think one can so infer for "Guinea", as the historians of Northern
black post-bellum settlements apparently do   (I have not -- yet --
gone to those secondary sources.)  But finding written evidence is a
different matter.

Thoreau's sentence -- "Some say that he was a Guinea Negro." -- seems
unambiguous that "Guinea", at least as the place name, was used as an
attributive with a noun referring to a person.  Google Books finds 6
different instances of "he was a Guinea negro" (including Thoreau)
between 1845 and 1890.

And another for "he's a Guinea negro", additionally with "Guinea" =
"African person" -- "Helvington: a dramatic story in five acts"
(Memphis: Bulletin Pub. Co., 1867), page 10:
      "NED W.  Oh, that is old Crow. He's a Guinea negro. MRS. S. How
interesting! A Guinea? Do introduce me, I wish
to converse with him."

For "Guineas live", there is Joel Chandler Harris's "Daddy Jake the
runaway: and short stories told after dark" N.Y: The Century Co.,
1896), in a story titled "Why the Guineas Stay Awake", page 120:
      "Yit, soon er late , w'en he got ter whar de guineas live at,
he foun' um all soun' asleep. ..."


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