[Ads-l] "Old Sober"

Z Sohna zrice3714 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 29 19:54:44 UTC 2021

I haven’t seen anyone post on the moniker for the noodles dish “Old Sober”
among Native Black Americans. I tried searching online to see if anyone
posted on its etymology but was unable to find anything. Nevertheless, I
posit that “Old Sober” is (clearly) an anglicization of the Japanese /osoba/

The “old” in the anglicization “Old Sober” is from the Japanese
honorific/beautification prefix /o/, which is appended to nouns in Japanese
to impart honor, respect, or “beauty” to a given noun.

The kanji character for this prefix is 御

The hiragana syllable for this prefix is お

The “sober” in the anglicization “Old Sober” is from the Japanese /soba/
“noodles” (specifically, buckwheat noodles).

To wit, “Old Sober” is a Japanese loanword, the spelling an anglicization
of the Japanese /osoba/ or 御蕎麦

As a case in point, the Japanese restaurant linked just below lists an
offering (see the brown menu buttons on said webpage) that includes /soba/
“noodles” (i.e., 蕎麦 ) coupled with the honorific/beautification prefix /o/
(i.e., 御 ) so that the soba or “noodle” dishes on the menu are referred to
in kanji as /osoba/ (i.e., 御蕎麦 )


This is just one case among many. There are numerous restaurants in Japan
bearing the moniker /osoba/ and, unsurprisingly each specializes in
Japanese noodles.

I should note that the anglicization is very well likely the result of
hypercorrection of Native Black American speech. None of my informants
pronounce a word-final [ɝ] as indicated in the anglicization “Old Sober”;
instead, each employs a schwa /ə/. Likewise, the first syllable of the
word, as uttered by my informants, is more akin to a long /o/; I’ve yet to
record it pronounced otherwise by any of my informants. The sobriety claims
seem to be based primarily on folk etymology; the dish is eaten any time,
it is not specifically a “fix” for drunkards, but a nourishing meal,

Most origin myths for the dish place it in New Orleans; however, Virginia
has an identical dish that was introduced to the local Native Black
American population by the late Tsujuru Miyazaki, a Japanese immigrant and
the former owner of the then popular Horseshoe Café in Suffolk, Virginia.

Hoping that the Japanese characters/symbols go through correctly.


Zola Sohna

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

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