Date: Mon, 9 Mar 1998 15:46:41 -0600
From: "Salikoko S. Mufwene" s-mufwene[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UCHICAGO.EDU
Subject: Re[2]: Spittin' Image

At 11:35 AM -0600 3/9/98, Ellen Johnson wrote:
Nevertheless, instances of "spirit and image" do indeed occur, for
example in the LAMSAS records, though I don't have the data available
here to comment on a racial distribution. (I did have an elderly
white woman tell me that "X is the spit of Y" was heard from AfAms.)
Is this a further reinterpretation of spitten image (possibly
euphemistic) or a separate development?

The African-American nonstandard pronunciation of _spirit_ I have
typically heard is [spErit]. I too find Larry Horn's position more
plausible than the seemingly folk etymology reported Ellen Johnson and Don
Lance. There is also an 18th-century Kittitian Creole text, by Samuel
Matthews (the counterpart of Ambrose Gonzales, in my opinion) in which a
Black slave suspecting his master of having sired his child complains that
he looks as if the master had just spat him. The text does not contain the
phrase "spitting image" but highlights the child-sirer resemblance with the
verb "spit". It is easy enough to think of Africanism (unknown to me--but
Africa is diverse!) here, but it is very plausible that to assume that the
figure of speech was well established then.


Salikoko S. Mufwene s-mufwene[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]
University of Chicago 773-702-8531; FAX 773-834-0924
Department of Linguistics
1010 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637