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

MULLINS, WILLIAM D (Bill) CIV USARMY DEVCOM AVMC (USA) 0000099bab68be9a-dmarc-request at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
Fri Apr 30 22:36:09 UTC 2021

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

>  The horn is "imitating" or saying the word.

Am I understanding you correctly:

You're saying that the musical flourish represented here:


was inspired by African-Americans who were descendants of 
Kikongo-speaking Africans who were enslaved and brought to America.

Presumably, the African-Americans were saying "Tadaa!" in lieu of the 
English word "behold", and White musicians heard this, and represented the
term with the two-note flourish we all know today at points in a show
where an offstage expression of "Behold!" would be appropriate.

That's an interesting theory; is there any way to test it?  

If it can't be tested, does it simply become a matter of faith -- you have
faith that this (and many other terms which you have mentioned) originate
in African spoken language, and migrated to vernacular (Black, and then White) 
English before ever appearing in the written record, and I (for example) have
faith that, despite all its faults and holes, the written record doesn't demonstrate
African-American origins of "tadaa!" as spoken by American showmen because 
that's not where it originated.

>  Nevertheless, I would advise you to consult the Kikongo language and its
> lexicon if the origin of *tada* ‘behold!’, ‘look!’ < Kikongo *tadi /** tala*
> ‘behold!, look!’ confuses you.

Please don't mistake my interest in this particular term, and my failure to embrace
its putative Kikongo origins, as "confusion".  I'm not confused.  I just don't think 
your assertions are sufficient to change my mind.  I've been interested in "tadaa!"
for quite a while:


and would love to see _evidence_ that it came from somewhere other than a 
white magician. ("Pejaie Senrab"; Philip J Barnes, a 25 year old student and son of
a banker in a town with less than 1% Black population.  His background doesn't
lead me to believe he picked up the term from his Black friends -- but I could be


The horn is "imitating" or saying the word. The word itself is not
imitating the horn. More specifically, the word, does not sound like the
trumpet sound of which you speak. It is the word that gives rise to the
musical sound of which you speak. This is the concept of the “talking
instrument”, common most notably in African-derived musical practices. In
the Americas, it is the Native Black American population who persistently
practice the tradition of talking instruments - and to an extreme degree.
All instruments are made to “talk” among the Native Black American
population, and it is considered a marker of musical talent.

That "musical flourish" is not meaningless; it - as well as the word *tada*
- is employed to tell/prompt someone to "look!" or "behold!". The musical
“sound” mimicking the word should have evoked some intellectual curiosity
as to a potential African origin. The word’s use in everyday conversation –
and not simply as a “musical flourish” – should have also raised at least
some suspicion. And finally, the basic history of the United States, above
anything else, should have prompted researchers to investigate the African
languages for the word’s etymon.

Nevertheless, I would advise you to consult the Kikongo language and its
lexicon if the origin of *tada* ‘behold!’, ‘look!’ < Kikongo *tadi /** tala*
‘behold!, look!’ confuses you. You can also consult the Kimbundu *tala*
‘look!’ and the Kimbundu *kutala* ‘to look’, as well.

As per your question, it is “incredible” because I expect intellectual
curiosity and due diligence on the part of those charged with compiling
dictionaries. The fact that it is erroneously explained across the board as
“imitative” (in the very same country to which Africans – particularly from
the regions of what are present-day Congo and Angola – were trafficked and
enslaved in such large number) demonstrates a lack of due diligence. The
toponyms *Angola*, *Congo*, *Banza* (< Kikongo *mbanza* ‘city, town’) and
more occur no less than one-hundred times in total in the United States.
The historical record points to Congo and Angola repeatedly as the primary
places from which Africans were trafficked to the antebellum United States
for enslavement. It is negligent to not consult the languages of the ethnic
groups from the aforementioned regions in the study of American

It should be noted that the Kikongo *tadi / tala* ‘behold!, look!’ is
derived from the Kikongo *tala* ‘to look’; it is not English. The
radicals/root-stems *tad-*, *tal-*, and *tat-* for 'to see, look at' are
found throughout the Bantu region. Compare the Basaa *ntat-mbay* ‘sparrow,
literally “house-watcher”’ < Basaa *ntat* ‘watcher’ < Basaa *tat* ‘to
watch’ + Basaa *mbay* ‘house’. (It also occurs among this ethnic group as
*ntad-mbay.*) The Basaa ethnic group is native to Cameroon – not Congo /
Angola. A related radical/root-stem can be found as far as the Swahili
coast with the same meaning. Since the Bantu languages are related, this
should not be surprising.


Zola Sohna

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

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

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