[Ads-l] Ruckus / Ruck Etymology

Z Rice zrice3714 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Nov 25 17:42:48 UTC 2020

I recently reviewed a recorded testimonial by a now deceased person in
which the terms "ruk / ruck" and "rukus / ruckus" appear. The recording was
made a decade ago, and at the time, I found an earlier occurrence of "ruck"
in an issue of American Speech, though I cannot seem to find the issue on
my computer.  "Ruk / Ruck" as it occurred in the recorded testimonial and
in the issue of American Speech appears quite late in the English dialects.
The earliest citations I've found thus far occur, rather predictably, in
the antebellum period.

I documented the verb ruk / ruck as 'to make a loud noise (said of both
persons and objects), rattle loudly, vociferate, yell or shout, bark, erupt
in noise'. The speaker was a Native Black American from the South who moved
to the North in his youth. He is now deceased.

It is related to the noun rukus / ruckus 'noise, uproar, clamor, racket,
din, loud argument, loud discussion'.

Both ruk / ruck and rukus / ruckus derive from the Kikongo language, from:

Kikongo lukusu / lɔkɔsɔ (noun) 'noise, clamor, din, sound of shouting, loud
discussion, quarrel'

Kikongo lɔka (verb)  'to make loud noise, erupt with loud noise, bray, cry
out, scream, bellow, wail loudly, shout, curse, call out loudly'

Listed in a number of dictionaries as "of unknown origin" or "probably..."


Zola Sohna

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

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