Date: Tue, 15 Oct 1996 16:54:23 -0400
From: "Peter L. Patrick" PPATRICK[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]GUVAX.ACC.GEORGETOWN.EDU
Subject: "WOW" and Scots English-- not too early!
Two things about "wow".
1) Anything is possible, but is does seem unlikely to me. In creole
studies, esp. the Atlantic region, it's long been known that there is
a potential etymon in SOME Africanlanguage for just about any one or
two syllable word in any existing variety of a creole or Europena
language. People spent years suggesting them and getting shot down
(or, occasionally, not) until a standard suggested by Derek Bickerton
(for grammatical transfers, primarily-- he was and is a great
suspecter of any African influences in New World creoles, unlike
myself) took informal hold: such suggestions need to have a plausible
accompanying description of the route which might have been taken to
establish them. Not just: "Gee! this looks like it might be Wolof!",
but demographics, slave transportation records, accounts of the
contact situation, etc. Not a bad criterion, really.
2) That leads to the next point. I don't have evidence for Wolof Õwa:wþ.
But E. W. Gilman is wrong to take the date 1513 as self-evidently too
early for contact, even in chilly Scotland. Ronald Sanders's marvelous
book "Lost Tribes and Promised Lands" quotes as an early example of
gross racial caricature a poem by Scottish poet William Dunbar which
"celebrates a jousting contest held in 1506 or 1507 at the court of
King James IV of Scotland, at which the ironic guest of honor is one
of the undoubtedly very rare pieces of human cargo from the African
slaving ships of the day to have made her way this far north". I won't
quote the offensive bits, which don't contain anything interesting
anyway, but it begins:
Lang heff I maed of ladyes quhytt,
Nou of ane blak I will indytt,
That landet furth of the last schippis;
Quhoy fain wald I descryve perfytt, ..."
and then come the nasty bits. For more see Sanders, or W.M.
Mackenzie's "The Poems of William Dunbar" (1970), "Of Ane Blakmoir".
PS. I'll sign off ("nomail") for a few days in Las Vegas, so please send
any responses of direct interest to me personally.