[Ads-l] World Cup Edition: Ginga / Gingar 'to swing', 'side-to-side body movement'

Z Sohna zrice3714 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Nov 28 19:52:37 UTC 2022

With the World Cup well underway, I keep encountering the word *ginga* in
the US news and in other media outlets:

>From The New York Times: “[César Sampaio] still believes in *ginga*
(pronounced jee-en-gah), a term borrowed from capoeira that has come to
encapsulate the melodic, inventive streak shot through Brazilian soccer.”

>From The Financial Times: “He says, “Put on some music that gets you in the
mood, and a Brazilian might be sitting down, but he’ll always dance a
little. I come from a family that loves samba. I think I have a little
Brazilian *ginga* [broadly: a sensual shimmy], something in the hips.””

I checked* Priberam*, and *ginga* and *gingar* are both listed there as
“origem obscura” [obscure origin]  – though *ginga* is listed as derived
from the verb *gingar*, which itself is defined in the dictionary as “to
sway when walking”, while the noun *ginga* is defined in the dictionary as:

      “a side-to-side body movement”

     “[Soccer:] a set of movements used to deceive one’s opponent or dodge
him, usually by pretending to advance on one side, only to go in the other

Both Cambridge and Oxford define the Portuguese verb *gingar* as ‘to
swing’, another definition I’ve seen in some recent news articles. It’s
important to note that this word-initial Portuguese [g] in *ginga* and
*gingar* is IPA /ʒ/.

I argue that *ginga* and *gingar* are both derived from the Kikongo *zuŋga*
‘to swing (the arms)’, ‘to make a detour’, ‘to go/come/pass around an
obstacle’. (Bentley 1887, 481 s.v. *zunga*)  Compare with the Kikongo
inflected form *zuŋguta* ‘to sway’. (Bentley 1887, 481 s.v. *zunguta*)

Both *ginga* and *gingar* are closely related to the Native Black American
*jonkanú* ‘a wandering street processional music tradition’. The Native
Black American form is derived from the Kikongo *zuŋgana* ‘to roam around’,
‘to wander about’, ‘to go here and there’ (Laman 1936, 1177 s.v. *zūngana*)
– ultimately derived from the Kikongo *zuŋga*. (Note: the Native Black
American form is often anglicized “John Canoe” in the literature.)

The Portuguese and Brazilians are highly advanced and adept when it comes
to tracing and recording Africanisms in their language, so I'm sure their
lexicographers will eventually address *ginga* and *gingar*.


Zola Sohna


Bentley, William H. *Dictionary and Grammar of the Kongo Language, as
Spoken in San Salvador, the Ancient Capital of the Old Kongo Empire, West
Africa.* London: Baptist Missionary Society, 1887.

Laman, Karl E. *Dictionnaire Kikongo-Français avec une Étude Phonétique
Décrivant les Dialectes le plus Importants de la Langue dite
Kikongo*. Institut
Royal Colonial Belge, 1936.





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

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