Date: Wed, 24 Dec 1997 22:25:54 -0500

From: Laurence Horn laurence.horn[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]YALE.EDU

Subject: Re: Season's Greetings

At 9:49 PM -0500 12/24/97, Alan Baragona wrote:

Barnhart wrote:

Dear All,

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanza. Are there dialectal

variations in these?

Not exactly dialectal differences, but I think the Brits say Happy

Christmas, and there are different transcription traditions for

representing Hanukkah/Chanuka/...

Apparently there is for Kwanza, anyway, though it may not be dialectal.

In Virginia, it's spelled Kwanzaa , and a recent newspaper article

actually pointed out that the Swahili word for "first" is "kwanza," but

that a final -a had been added to the festival's name. It didn't

explain who added the -a or why, and I note that the RHD (Unabridged)

spells it "Kwanza" in good Swahili. So is there regional variation in

the American spelling of this relatively new holiday or just general

inconsistency? And why the un-African -aa spelling in the first place?

Alan B.

Not sure, but it might be worth remembering that this traditional holiday

was initated by Ron Karenga of UCLA during the late 1960's (I was there at

the time); I believe he later adopted a different first name (Maulana?).

Actually, his choice of the -aa spelling would be appropriate, now that I

think of it, since the holiday is presumably named not for the verb

_kwanza_ 'to begin', but for its nominal derivative _kwanzaa_ 'first fruits

of the harvest'. But if I recall my Swahili, the universal penultimate

stress of the language extends to double vowels, so that it "should" then

be pronounced kwanZAa and it never is. The -aa final is not un-African in

any case; certainly it's not particularly rare in Swahili, although it may

occur more frequently in Arabic loans.