Date: Wed, 24 Dec 1997 22:25:54 -0500 From: Laurence Horn 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 , 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. Larry