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

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Mar 13 13:59:42 UTC 2016

It is also true that representations of AAVE either by African-American
writers or well-informed whites are comparatively rare before WWII.

I can't think, offhand, of any really substantial glossaries of black slang
before Dan Burley's enthusiastic _Original Handbook of Harlem Jive_
(1944).  Those that exist are perfunctory

An informed analysis of Burley's book is long overdue (unless there's one
that I'm unaware of, which is a distinct possibility).


On Sun, Mar 13, 2016 at 9:49 AM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>

> The data available to HDAS two decades ago made it impossible to say
> which, hip or hep, was "the original."
> Both appear in writing at almost the same time. The popular presumption
> that "hip" is the original and therefore the "correct form" is neither
> provable nor disprovable.
> "Hip" and "hep" first appear in print - in white theatrical and criminal
> discourse - ca.1900.  "Hep" was long the predominant form.
> "Hepcat" and the very less frequent "hipcat" don't show up until the swing
> era.
> JL
> On Sat, Mar 12, 2016 at 11:10 PM, James A. Landau <JJJRLandau at netscape.com
> > wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       "James A. Landau" <JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM>
>> Subject:      Re: Hip/Hep and "Crying Wolof" (for Horn & Sheidlower)
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> On Fri, 11 Mar 2016 13:53:57 zone+0800 W Brewer <brewerwa at GMAIL.COM>
>> wrote:
>> Subject:
>> <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
>> poem.
>> Who could doubt that <hippity-hop> derives from <hip-hop>, if not
>> ultimately from Wolof, given the phonological, semantic, & cultural
>> correspondences?
>> <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)
>> _____________________________________________________________
>> Netscape.  Just the Net You Need.
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list