[Ads-l] Hip/Hep and "Crying Wolof" (for Horn & Sheidlower)

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM
Sun Mar 13 04:10:27 UTC 2016

On Fri, 11 Mar 2016 13:53:57 zone+0800 W Brewer <brewerwa at GMAIL.COM> wrote:

<begin quote>

<hippity-hop> is obviously connected to the quintessentially AA hip-hop
cultural movement.

Hippity-hop to the barber shop,
   To buy a stick of candy;
One for you, and one for me,
   And one for Brother Andy.

Note the significant reference to Spencer Williams at the end of the 

Who could doubt that <hippity-hop> derives from <hip-hop>, if not
ultimately from Wolof, given the phonological, semantic, & cultural

<end quote>

Actually, Mr. Brewer, the term "hip-hop" was originated by an African-American musician who was reading Beatrix Potter and decided that since he was a member of a disadvantaged minority group he felt affinity with Peter Rabbit.

Seriously, English has a long-standing fondness for what might be called "mishmash" words, words of the form AXB-AYB where A and B are consonants or consonant clusters and X and Y are vowels.  Examples:  riff-raff, flim-flam, flip-flop, zig-zag, tic-tac-(toe), click-clack, knick-knack, Long-Fong-Spong Hong Kong Ping Pong Ding Dong.  These are easy to invent:  books published in Riga are Lett Lit.

(Mishmash words are not restricted to English, e.g. in the French original of "Frere Jacques" the bells sound "din dan don", and in Sweden there is a series of children's books about three boys named Snip, Snap, and Snur.)

I have absolutely no evidence for the following conjecture, but it is easy to imagine that some musician or music critic (probably but not necessarily African-American) decided that here was a new genre of music and it needed a name.  The music was definitely "hip" and this theorized coiner may have then thought of the phrase "hippity-hop", or even of Peter Rabbit, or of some other rabbit, or maybe even the dance known as the "bunny hop", and came up with "hip-hop".

One thing I do know about "hip" and "hep" is that the latter was widely known in white America by 1945, when the US Navy had a squadron of submarines (USS Sea Dog, Crevalle, and Spadefish) known as "Hydeman's Hep Cats".  (There were two other squadrons, "Piece's Pole Cats" and "[Bob] Risser's Bob Cats".  Collectively, the three squadrons formed the "Hell Cats".)

Did I miss somewhere in this thread evidence that "hip" derived from "hep" or vice versa?

- Jim Landau  (who wouldn't recognize a piece of hip-hop music if one hopped in front of him)


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