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

Z Sohna zrice3714 at GMAIL.COM
Tue May 4 00:06:32 UTC 2021

I saw your previous post on ADS-L regarding that citation early in the
process, but thank you for sharing it again. I wrote about the problematic
nature of relying on citations as indicators of a given word’s origin or
birth. As per your previous request for citations, I would direct you to
that earlier post.

As I stated previously regarding *tada* ‘behold’, the fact that no African
origin was considered by etymologists and lexicographers is ahistorical,
problematic, and demonstrates a lack of due diligence – particularly when
one considers the history of the United States and the role the Native
Black American population and their progenitors played in the development
and evolution of American musical performance (though among said
population, the word is not limited to music and is very frequently
employed in conversation with zero “flourish”). Throughout the history of
the United States, the Native Black American population predominated in the
musical sector as performers and creators; and even those persons who were
not Native Black Americans were certainly largely influenced by them. If
one were to look *anywhere* for African retentions in the United States,
the easiest and most obvious place to find them is in American music and
stage performance. This historical fact, coupled with the history of the
antebellum United States (i.e, its trafficking of Africans primarily from
the Congo/Angola regions who spoke Kikongo and Kimbundu) means it should
not be surprising that *tada* ‘behold!’ (whether spoken in conversation or
in music) – from the Kikongo *tadi* / *tala* ‘behold!’ –  is African, more
specifically Kikongo, in origin.

Moreover, due to the historical role of the aforementioned ethnic group in
American music, I have no reason to assume (as you did) that it would have
been “white musicians [who] heard [tada], and represented the term with the
two-note flourish we all know today.” I have no reason to cite “white
musicians” as the origin/source of uniquely American musical artifacts (as
you did), when the source of musical artifacts that are uniquely American
is overwhelmingly the Native Black American population of the United
States. I also have no reason to believe it would have been “white
musicians” who decided to make the instrument talk, when I know full well
that this practice is African in origin. I am perplexed as to how you would
have come to such a conclusion or suggested as much. (I'm also perplexed
that you actually suggested that *tada* came from "a white magician".
Another "invented it" narrative.)

I do not wish to leave you with the impression that I was trying to or
intend to “convince” you, because I have no such interest. I do not engage
in those sorts of American racial power dynamics, and I’m certainly not
about to start here. I have zero interest in your approval.

When you discuss a word (i.e., *tada*) found in American “showbiz” (this is
what you pointed to in your earlier post) and express incredulity as to an
African (more specifically, Kikongo) origin, having full knowledge (as I
assume you do) of the Native Black American historical predominance and
influence in American musical performance (including stage performance,
carnivals, vaudeville, medicine shows, and the like), that is when the
conversation ends, because if you are indeed an American, then I can only
receive this as feigned ignorance or patent disingenuousness.

You also implied disbelief as to the African origin of the “many” words I
posted here. I’d instead prefer to hear from a linguist, specifically one
willing to risk his/her credibility and place in the historical record by
openly claiming “the many words” I mentioned here (listed below for
convenience) are not Africanisms, but merely figments of imagination. (I'd
like for such individuals to feel free to enter their names into the
written record as being opposed to those findings.):

*jaavlike/jaablike, jaav/jaab, jaa*  ‘very, really, extremely, too, so’
(anglicized jivelike/jibelike, jive/jibe, jih) < semi-calque of
Mandinka *dʒawuke
*‘very, extremely, really, too’ < Mandinka *dʒaw / dʒawoo* ‘bad’ + Mandinka
*-ke* ‘a Mandinka suffix equivalent to the English suffixes *-ly* and
(dialectal) *-like*’

*kingyuka*  ‘the Devil, the Serpent, a Caucasian’ < Kimbundu *kinyɔka*
‘serpent, large snake’

*kichin*  ‘(anatomical) nape (of a Black person), back of the neck’
(Anglicized spelling: kitchen) < Kikongo *ki-* ‘a Kikongo Class 7 singular
noun prefix for things and places’ + Kikongo *ʧiŋgu* ‘nape’; Kimbundu
*kiʃiŋgu* ‘nape’

*kichin*  ‘a tightly coiled or tightly spiraled hair (especially at the
nape or temples)’ (Anglicized spelling: kitchen) < Kikongo *ki-* ‘a Kikongo
Class 7 singular noun prefix for things and places’ + Kikongo *ʒiŋgu*
‘coil, spiral’ (also *zi**ŋgu*); cf. Bahamian *kazin* ‘a tightly coiled or
tightly spiraled hair at the nape or temples’

*jonkanu/junkanu*  ‘roaming processional street celebration’ (Anglicized
spelling: John Canoe) < Kikongo *luzuŋgunu* ‘procession, promenade’ <
Kikongo *zu**ŋgana* ‘to promenade, to wander around’

*lamp*  ‘to relax, rest, lay down, be calm, be patient’ < Kikongo *lemba*
‘to rest, calm’; *lammba* ‘to lay down, rest’; *lembama* ‘to be patient’

*tada*  ‘behold!’ < Kikongo *tadi* / *tala* ‘behold!’

*funk*  ‘(active) energy, force, power, strength, “oomph”’ < Kikongo *mfu*
*ŋka* ‘(active) energy, force, power, strength’

*gank*  ‘ruse, deception, trick, fraud, to defraud, to swindle’ < Kikongo
*nga**ŋgu *‘trick, artifice, lie, falsity’; *tekela e ngangu* ‘defraud,

*jaav/jive*  ‘to play with, tease’ < Fulfulde *ʝaaɓ-* ‘Fulfulde
radical/root-stem meaning, “to play (with), to tease”’

*jaav/jive*  ‘jokes (always plural), banter, Native Black American
language, Native Black American tradition of ritualized joking and mockery’
< Fulfulde *ʝaabi *‘jokes (always plural), banter’ < Fulfulde *ʝaaɓ-*
‘Fulfulde radical/root-stem meaning, “to play (with), to tease”’ + Fulfulde
*-i* ‘the Fulfulde *ɗi* noun class plural marker’

*húdú*  ‘any plant of medicinal utility, the Native Black American bush
medicine tradition’ (Anglicized spelling: “hoodoo”) < Fulfulde *huɗo* ‘wild
vegetation, weeds’

*húdú  *‘trick, dupe, trickery, deception’ (Anglicized spelling: “hoodoo”)
< Fulfulde *hodugol* ‘to trick, dupe’ < Fulfulde *hodo* ‘trickery,

*húdú  *‘to curse, cause someone misfortune, Native Black American
tradition of harnessing spirits and working with nature and the dead to
affect one’s fate or bring about justice’ (Anglicized spelling: “hoodoo”) <
Fulfulde *huɗa* ‘to curse’

*bag*  ‘habit, custom, tradition, way of life, modus operandi, preferred
activity, belief’ < Wolof *baax* ‘habit, custom, tradition, belief’; cf.
Fulfulde (Senegal) *bak* ‘habit’ (obs.)

*hep/hip*  ‘fashionable, en vogue, up-to-date in fashion, style, or events;
the latest in fashion, style, or events; trendy; happening, occurring (when
speaking of events)’ < Wolof *xɛw* ‘fashionable, en vogue, up-to-date in
fashion or style, the latest in fashion or style, trendy; to happen, to
occur’ (cf. Cape Verdean *fɛpu* ‘completely, totally’ < Bamanakan *fewu*
‘completely, entirely’)

*lunch/launch*  ‘(to be) funny, perky, chipper, in high spirits, hard to
handle, troublesome, bothersome, annoying, puzzled, perplexed, inattentive,
in a daze; to play around, joke around, not be serious, walk or skip about
happily/cheerfully, annoy, bother’ < Wolof *ləc* ‘(to be) jolly, perky,
spirited,  troublesome, hard to handle (i.e. of a child), perplexed;
inattentive;  to jest, play around, banter, romp about, frolic; *ləɟlɛ*
‘(to be) annoying’; *ləɟal *‘to annoy, bother, perplex’

Serious persons with reputations to uphold and careers based on credibility
and a record of excellence…those are the persons I want to witness openly
engaging in this flagrant denialism.

And no respectable linguist worth his or her salt would dismiss
African-derived loanwords anywhere in the regions in which Africans were
enslaved – whether Brazil, Argentina, Puerto Rico, the United States,
Colombia, or elsewhere – based on 1) the race of the first person cited and
2) whether or not the first person cited using the African-derived loanword
had Black “friends”.  (???) According to your logic, the discoveries of
Turner, Bunseki, and many others should be regarded as “unconvincing” and
"matters of faith" for want of early citations, the only way in which to
"test" African retentions (as you suggest). African retentions in Brazil,
Colombia, and elsewhere should be deemed “unconvincing” or suspicious when
the source cited is “white” and in a white-collar profession. ??? It is
most unfortunate when one can make statements of this sort among linguists
and lexicographers with full knowledge of the country’s history and
actually expect to be taken seriously.

A more appropriate (and sophisticated) line of questioning – considering 1)
the country’s history of trafficking and enslaving Africans from the
Congo/Angola region, and 2) the prominent role and influence of Native
Black Americans in the creation and development of American music – would
have involved the topics of vowel length, syllable stress, semantic
meaning, or tonal value in the Kikongo *tadi* and *tala* vs the U.S. *tada*.
Requests for evidence of other Bakongo musical phrases elsewhere in
American musical performance would have been completely reasonable and
appropriate. Questions about the African practice of talking instruments
when you presumably know little to nothing about it would have been
preferable. (I assume you know nothing about it based on your earlier
responses.) Those are the sorts of topics of analysis in which I will
engage. Not whether someone had Black "friends".

As I addressed all I intended in my initial post, this will be my final
post on this particular thread.


Zola Sohna


Date:    Fri, 30 Apr 2021 22:36:09 +0000
         <william.d.mullins18.civ at MAIL.MIL>
Subject: Re: Cap/Kap - "joke, not be serious, (hence: lie), ritualized
joking tradition of Native Black Americans"

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
English before ever appearing in the written record, and I (for example)
faith that, despite all its faults and holes, the written record doesn't
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 /**
> ‘behold!, look!’ confuses you.

Please don't mistake my interest in this particular term, and my failure to
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
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
lead me to believe he picked up the term from his Black friends -- but I
could be

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list