[Ads-l] Cap/Kap - "joke, not be serious, (hence: lie), ritualized joking tradition of Native Black Americans"

Z Sohna zrice3714 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Apr 9 18:52:55 UTC 2021

Some years ago, I researched the Native Black American *cap/kap* meaning
"to joke, tease, to not be serious (hence, to lie)". It is also a noun,
meaning "a joke, teasing, something said without being serious (hence, a
lie)". It is also used among Native Black Americans to refer to their
ritualized joking tradition.

I noted that it is derived from the Wolof *kaf* "to joke, to tease, to not
be serious; a joke, teasing". (Among both populations, it is a noun, as
well as a verb.)

I noticed however that on the *A Way with Words* podcast, it was instead
attributed to "the 1500s when you might "cap" an anecdote, quotation, or
verse as part of a verbal jousting game".

The same podcast (inexplicably) attributed the Native Black American
*kichin* "nape, tightly coiled, spiral hairs at the nape or temples" to the
Scottish *kinch* "kink, noose", instead of the Kikongo *kichingu* "nape"
and the Kikongo *kiʒiŋgu* "coil, spiral". It also wrongfully attributed the
Native Black American *shank* "any crude knife or machete" to *shank* (as
in English) "a person's leg" or (as the podcaster stated:) "something
pointy" - instead of the Kikongo *zangu* "machete, knife". The podcaster
also attributes shank to "prison slang" despite its universal use among
Native Black Americans (he doesn't mention the population at all, but
instead mentions "prison"). The term *shank* also appears in an early issue
of *American Speech* (it would take me some time to find that exact issue
but I can, if needed), in which its use is mentioned in the southeastern
United States - but certainly NOT as "prison slang".

Among Native Black Americans, *shank* also means "to cut, to slash, to
stab", from the Kikongo *zanga* meaning "to cut, slice".

In all of these cases, the African origin(s) was neither discussed nor
disclosed - which is bewildering since the progenitors of this very same
population were trafficked from the African continent.

Zola Sohna

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list