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

Salikoko S. Mufwene s-mufwene at UCHICAGO.EDU
Mon Mar 14 08:10:09 UTC 2016

Dear Zola:

     I have debated for a long time before deciding to respond to your 
post, because the subject matter you discuss has tended to lump both 
intellectual and emotional reactions indiscriminately. African languages 
have undoubtedly contributed some lexical items to the English 
vocabulary. The most uncontroversial, such as /okra/ and /gumbo/, happen 
to be areal features, quite widespread among the languages of 
sub-Saharan Africa, especially in areas where African captives were 
brought from. They are also common in Caribbean English creoles.

     It is also a fact that enslaved Africans have sometimes used 
mechanisms within English itself to generate meanings that African 
Americans do not, or did not originally, share with other Americans. 
These innovations may or may not have been fostered by particular 
meanings evident in African languages spoken by some enslaved Africans. 
One must sort out whether such meanings are calques from African 
languages or are simply innovations within the colony. When there are 
also similarities with particular forms in African languages, one must 
sort out whether they are chance similarities or whether there are 
historical facts that support claiming them as probable etyma for the 
lexical items and uses in question. Producing evidence and dates of 
earlier attestations of such forms/uses (even as reported by earlier 
observers, as the late J. L. Dillard often did) is really helpful.

     I skimmed through your article and could not establish that you 
have addressed these questions before reaching your conclusions. This is 
the kind of approach that was once criticized as the "Cafeteria 
Principle," although I have argued myself that the "Cafeteria Principle" 
is fine, as long as the "Principle" aspect of it is accounted for. 
Unfortunately, your article has not addressed this. You may have a case, 
but you have not supported it, as far as I can tell.

     It is true that a large proportion of slaves from the Senegambia 
area were brought to the present USA, but many, many more were also 
brought from south of the area, especially from the Slave Coast (the 
Bight of Benin) and the Congo-Angola area. It also depends on which 
European nation did the trade and where the captives were taken. In the 
18th century, a substantial proportion of Senegambian captives were 
taken to Louisiana, then a French colony. Many of the Senegambian 
captives did not necessarily speak Wolof, which spread as a dominant 
lingua franca in Senegambia largely through the French exploitation 
colonization of the region, in the 19th century. As you can see, there 
are a lot of things to sort out, including whether the meanings you 
discuss may be an areal features or just happen to be coincidences, 
especially if Senegambians happened to have been minorities in the 
English colonies that matter.

     The point I want to make is that, while the agency of Africans in 
shaping AAVE should not be questioned and it is also true that some 
modern English lexical meanings and idioms have spread from the African 
American population, one must follow a particular protocol of 
demonstration before being so certain that the etymology is Wolof 
and/but not from anywhere else. You have certainly directed our 
attention to something that is worth investigating further. The 
conclusion is up in the air... somewhere.


On 3/13/2016 9:30 AM, Z Rice wrote:
> All of this is disingenuous and diversionary.  NONE of of this addresses
> the original post and the Wolof evidence.
> Focusing on when and where a term was first published is rendering yourself
> a glorified data-entry clerk.
> I can hire a temp to perform the exact same services.
> I have forwarded my work to the scholars that matter.  You can continue
> with the diversionary tactics, simplistic analysis, and eurocentrism here,
> but with all due respect, you're simply making yourselves looks ridiculous.
> No matter what the myth of "Cry Wolof" is officially DEAD. My work is in
> the hands of the scholars that matter. The study of AAV is advancing, and
> in this process, the old guard must be left behind.
> Zola
> On Sun, Mar 13, 2016 at 2:59 PM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
>> Subject:      Re: Hip/Hep and "Crying Wolof" (for Horn & Sheidlower)
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> 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).
>> JL
>> On Sun, Mar 13, 2016 at 9:49 AM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>> 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
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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
Professor, Committee on the Conceptual & Historical Studies of Science
University of Chicago                  773-702-8531; FAX 773-834-0924
Department of Linguistics
1115 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637, USA

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list