Date: Tue, 15 Oct 1996 16:54:23 -0400


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 wa:w.

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".

--peter patrick

georgetown univ.

PS. I'll sign off ("nomail") for a few days in Las Vegas, so please send

any responses of direct interest to me personally.