Monday, February 22, 2016

The Survival Of Several Akan Day Names In 19th South Carolina & Other Linguistic Examples From An Excerpt Of The 1867 Book "Slaves Songs Of The South"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents an excerpt from the 1867 book Slave Songs From The South that provides examples of the use of African American Vernacular English in the South Carolina Sea Isle community of Port Royal, South Carolina, with special attention to examples of the use of titles (such as aunt and uncle) and personal names.

Background information about Port Royal, South Carolina is also included in this post. This post also included background information about the Gullah/Geechee people of South Carolina and other parts of the South and the Gullah/Geechee creole language.

The content of this post is presented for historical, linguistics, and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

This post honors the strength, the spirit of resilience, and the creativity of all those people of African descent whose words and names are noted in this book. Thanks to the authors of this book, and thanks to the transcribers of the electronic edition of this 1867 book.

Click for a pancocojams post on Black names in colonial South Carolina.

"Port Royal is a town on Port Royal Island in Beaufort County, South Carolina, United States"...

From Cultural Heritage Corridor FL,GA,NC,SC

History & Culture
"The Gullah/Geechee people are descendents of enslaved Africans from various ethnic groups of west and central Africa. Brought to the New World and forced to work on the plantations of coastal South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida, Gullah/Geechee people have retained many aspects of their African heritage due to the geographic barriers of the coastal landscape and the strong sense of place and family of Gullah/Geechee community members.

Today, the cultural and linguistic umbrella of the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor extends from Wilmington, NC to St. Augustine, FL. People who identify as Gullah or Geechee represent the many ways that Africans in the Americas have held on to and amalgamated the traditions of Africa with the cultures they encountered both during and after enslavement."

"Gullah (also called Sea Island Creole English and Geechee) is a creole language spoken by the Gullah people (also called "Geechees" within the community), an African-American population living on the Sea Islands and in the coastal region of the US states of South Carolina, Georgia and northeast Florida. Dialects of essentially the same language are spoken in the Bahamas.[2]

The Gullah language is based on English with strong influences from West and Central African languages...

The vocabulary of Gullah comes primarily from English, but it also has words of African origin. Some of the most common African loanwords are: cootuh ("turtle"), oonuh ("you [plural]"), nyam ("eat"), buckruh ("white man"), pojo ("heron"), swonguh ("proud") and benne ("sesame")...

Lorenzo Turner's research

In the 1930s and 1940s the African-American linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner did a seminal study of the Gullah language based on field research in rural communities in coastal South Carolina and Georgia. Turner found that Gullah is strongly influenced by African languages in its sound system, vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, and semantic system. Turner identified over 300 loanwords from various African languages in Gullah and almost 4,000 African personal names used by Gullah people. He also found Gullahs living in remote sea-side settlements who could recite songs and story fragments and do simple counting in the Mende, Vai and Fulani languages of West Africa. Turner published his findings in a classic work called Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect (1949). His book, now in its fourth edition, was most recently reprinted with a new introduction in 2002.

Before Lorenzo Turner's work, mainstream scholars viewed Gullah speech as substandard English, a hodgepodge of mispronounced words and corrupted grammar which uneducated black people developed in their efforts to copy the speech of their English, Irish, Scottish and French Huguenot slave owners.[3] But Turner's study was so well researched and detailed in its evidence of African influences in Gullah that academics soon reversed course. After Turner's book was published in 1949, scholars began coming to the Gullah region regularly to study African influences in Gullah language and culture."
Italics added by me to highlight these sentences.

Electronic Edition

William Francis Allen, Charles Pickard Ware,
and Lucy McKim Garrison [1867]
Images scanned by Robin Roenker
Text encoded by Andrew Leiter and Jill Kuhn
...University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,

This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.

IT will be noticed that we have spoken chiefly of the negroes of the Port Royal islands, where most of our observations were made, and most of our materials collected. The remarks upon the dialect which follow have reference solely to these islands, and indeed almost exclusively to a few plantations at the northern end of St. Helena Island. They will, no doubt, apply in a greater or less degree to the entire region of the southeasterly slave States, but not to other portions of the South. It should also be understood that the corruptions and peculiarities here described are not universal, even here. There are

Page xxiv
all grades, from the rudest field-hands to mechanics and house-servants, who speak with a considerable degree of correctness, and perhaps few would be found so illiterate as to be guilty of them all.

Ordinary negro talk, such as we find in books, has very little resemblance to that of the negroes of Port Royal, who have been so isolated heretofore that they have almost formed a dialect of their own. Indeed, the different plantations have their own peculiarities, and adepts profess to be able to determine by the speech of a negro what part of an island he belongs to, or even, in some cases, his plantation. I can myself vouch for the marked peculiarities of speech of one plantation from which I had scholars, and which was hardly more than a mile distant from another which lacked these peculiarities. Songs, too, and, I suppose, customs, vary in the same way.

A stranger, upon first hearing these people talk, especially if there is a group of them in animated conversation, can hardly understand them better than if they spoke a foreign language, and might, indeed, easily, suppose this to be the case. The strange words and pronunciations, and frequent abbreviations, disguise the familiar features of one's native tongue, while the rhythmical modulations, so characteristic of certain European languages, give it an utterly un-English sound. After six months' residence among them, there were scholars in my school, among the most constant in attendance, whom I could not understand at all, unless they happened to speak very slowly.

Page xxv
... Strange words are less numerous in their patois than one would suppose, and, few as they are, most of them maybe readily derived from English words. Besides the familiar buckra, and a few proper names, as Cuffy, Quash, and perhaps Cudjo, I only know of churray (spill), which may be "throw 'way;" oona or ona, "you" (both singular and plural, and used only for friends), as "Ona build a house in Paradise" ( No. 40); and aw, a kind of expletive, equivalent to "to be sure," as, "Dat clot' cheap." "Cheap aw." "Dat Monday one lazy boy." "Lazy aw--I 'bleege to lick 'em."

Corruptions are more abundant. The most common of them are these: Yearde (hear), as in Nos. 3, etc. "Flora, did you see that cat?" "No ma'am, but I yearde him holler." "Sh'um," a corruption of see 'em, applied (as 'em is) to all genders and both numbers.

Page xxvi
"Wan' to see how Beefut (Beaufort) stan'--nebber sh'um since my name Adam." Huddy (how-do?), pronounced how-dy by purists, is the common term of greeting, as in the song No. 20, "Tell my Jesus huddy O." "Bro' (brother) Quash sen' heap o' howdy." Studdy, (steady) is used to denote any continued or customary action. "He studdy 'buse an' cuss we," was the complaint entered by some little children against a large girl. "I studdy talk hard, but you no yearde me," was Rina's defence when I reproved her for not speaking loud enough. When we left, we were told that we must "studdy come back." Here, however, it seems to mean steady. Titty is used for mother or oldest sister; thus, Titty Ann was the name by which the children of our man-of-all work knew their mother, Ann. Sic-a or sake-a, possibly a condensation of same and like. "Him an' me grow up sic-a brudder an' sister." Enty is a curious corruption, I suppose of ain't he, used like our "Is that so?" in reply to a statement that surprises one. "Robert, you have n't written that very well." "Enty, sir?" "John, it's going to rain to-day." "Enty, sir?" Day-clean is used for day-break. "Do, day-clean, for let me go see Miss Ha'yet; and de day wouldn't clean." Sun-up is also common. Chu' for "this" or "that there;" as "Wha' chu?" "See one knife chu?" Say is used very often, especially in singing, as a kind of expletive; "(Say) when you get to heaven (say) you 'member me." (No. 27.) "Ain't you know say cotton de-de?" In the last sentence "de-de" (accent on first syllable) means

Page xxvii
"is there;"--the first de, a corruption of does for is, will be explained presently; the other is a very common form for dere, there.

I do not remember any other peculiar words, but several words used peculiarly. Cuss is used with great latitude, to denote any offensive language. "Him cuss me 'git out." "Ahvy (Abby) do cuss me," was the serious-sounding, but trifling accusation made by a little girl against her seat-mate. Stan' is a very common word, in the sense of look. "My back stan' like white man," was a boast which meant that it was not scarred with the lash. "Him stan' splendid, ma'am," of the sitting of a dress. I asked a group of boys one day the color of the sky. Nobody could tell me. Presently the father of one of them came by, and I told him their ignorance, repeating my question with the same result as before. He grinned: "Tom, how sky stan'?" "Blue," promptly shouted Tom. Both they seldom use; generally "all-two," or emphatically, "all-two boff togedder." One for alone. "Me one, and God," answered an old man in Charleston to the question whether he escaped alone from his plantation. "Gone home one in de dark," for alone. "Heab'n 'nuff for me one" (i.e., I suppose, "for my part"), says one of their songs (No. 46.) Talk is one of their most common words, where we should use speak or mean. "Talk me, sir?" asks a boy who is not sure whether you mean him or his comrade. "Talk lick, sir? nuffin but lick," was the answer when I asked whether a particular master used to

Page xxviii
whip his slaves. Call is used to express relationship as, "he call him aunt." Draw, for receiving in any way--derived from the usage of drawing a specific amount of supplies at stated times. "Dey draw letter," was the remark when a mail arrived and was distributed among us whites. Meet is used in the sense of find. "I meet him here an' he remain wid me," was the cook's explanation when a missing chair was found in the kitchen. When I remarked upon the absurdity of some agricultural process--"I meet 'em so an' my fader meet 'em so," was the sufficient answer. A grown man, laboring over the mysteries of simple addition, explained the gigantic answer he had got by "I meet two row, and I set down two." "I meet you dere, sir," said Miller frankly, when convinced in an argument. Too much is the common adverb for a high degree of a quality; "he bad too much" was the description of a hard master. Gang, for any large number; "a whole gang of slate-pencils." Mash in the sense of crush; "mammy mash 'em," when the goat had killed one of her kids by lying on it. Sensibble and hab sense are favorite expressions. A scholar would ask me to make him "sensibble" of a thing. "Nebber sh'um since I hab sense" (i.e., since I was old enough to know). Stantion (substantial) was a favorite adjective at Coffin's Point. Strain is also a favorite word. "Dem boy strain me," explained Billy, when some younger boys were attempting to base him. "I don't want to give more nor fifty-five dollar for a horse," said Quash, "but if dey strain you, you may give fifty-six." "Dat tune so strainful," said Rose.

Page xxix

The letters n, r and y are used euphonically. "He de baddes' little gal from y'ere to n'Europe," said Bristol of his troublesome niece Venus; "ought to put him on a bar'l, an' den he fall 'sleep an' fall down an' hut heself, an' dat make him more sensibble." "He n'a comin', sir," was often said of a missing scholar. At first, I took the n for a negative. I set Gib one day to picking out E's from a box of letters. He could not distinguish E from F, and at last, discouraged with his repeated failures, explained, holding out an F, "dis y'ere stan' sic-a-r-um." (This looks like that.) It is suggested also that d is used in the same way, in "He d'a comin';" and s, in singing for instance, "'Tis wells and good" (No. 25). So the vowel a; "De foxes have-a hole" (No. 2), "Heaven bell a-ring" (No. 27).

The most curious of all their linguistic peculiarities is perhaps the following. It is well known that the negroes in all parts of the South speak of their elders as "uncle" and "aunt,--"*

* In South Carolina "daddy" and "maum" are more common.
from a feeling of politeness, I do not doubt; it seemed disrespectful to use the bare name, and from Mr. and Mrs. they were debarred. On the Sea Islands a similar feeling has led to the use of cousin towards their equals. Abbreviating this, after their fashion, they get co'n or co' (the vowel sound u as in cousin) as the common title when they speak of one another; as, C'Abram, Co' Robin, Co'n Emma, C'Isaac, Co'Bob. Bro' (brother) and Si' (sister) and even T' (Titty)

Page xxx
are also often used in the same way; as, Bro' Paris, Si' Rachel, T' Jane. A friend insists that Cudjo is nothing but Co' Joe.

Page xxxiii
Proper names furnish many curious illustrations of the corruption in pronunciation. Many of them are impossible to explain, and it is still only a surmise that Finnick is derived from Phoenix, and Wyna from Malvina (the first syllable being dropped, as in 'Nelius for Cornelius, and 'Rullus for Marullus.) Hacless is unquestionably Hercules, and Sack no doubt Psyche; Strappan is supposed to be Strephon. All these are common names on the Sea Islands. Names of trades, as Miller, Butcher, are not uncommon. One name that I heard of, but did not myself meet with, was After-dark, so called because he was so black that "you can't sh'um 'fo' day-clean."…

Page xxxvi
...The following is Strappan's view of Love. "Arter you lub, you lub, you know, boss. You can't broke lub. Man can't broke lub. Lub stan'--'e ain't gwine broke. Man hab to be berry smart for broke lub. Lub is a ting stan' jus' like tar; arter he stick, he stick, he ain't gwine move. He can't move less dan you burn him. Hab to kill all two arter he lub 'fo' you broke lub."
-End of quote-

The once widely held belief (in the USA anyway) that enslaved Africans didn't name their children has largely been debunked. In the 18th century and to a lesser extent in the 19th century people of African descent in the African Diaspora (United States, the Caribbean, and South American) retained African names but often had folk processed forms of those names.

The above excerpt from Slave Songs From The South mentions the names Cuffy, Quash, and Cudjoe. These are folk processed forms of three Akan (Twi, Asante) day names: Kofi, Kwaku, and Kwadwo. These names are also found in other historical records in the 18th and 19th century in other parts of the United States South and in the 18th and 19th century Caribbean.

Here's information about the meanings of those Twi/Asante [Akan] names:
"The Akan people of Ghana frequently name their children after the day of the week they were born and the order in which they were born. These names have spread through West Africa, from Benin/Dahomey (Fon) and Togo (Ewe) to Cote d'Ivoire (Baoule), and throughout the African diaspora."....

Cuffy = male name [day of the week: Friday] = Kofi
variant forms* Fiifi, Koffi

Quash = male name [day of the week: Wednesday = Kwaku
variant forms* Kaku, Koku, Kuuku, Kweku

Cudjo = male name [day of the week: Monday] Kwadwo
variant forms* Jojo, Kodjo, Kojo
*"Variant forms" in that chart means variant forms in Ghana and in other West African nations

The name "Monday" that is mentioned in that featured passage is an English translation of the Akan day name "Kwadwo" (Kodjo) etc. And the name "Joe" that was given to Black males in 18th and 19th century South (USA) and the Caribbean could have come from the name "Kodjo."

I also wonder if the female name "Abby", mentioned in this Slave Songs Of The South excerpt is a folk processed form of Twi/Asante name "Abena" = female born on Tuesday.

The name "Essie" (which isn't mentioned in that excerpt but is a female name that I've read in other books about 19th century Black Americans) may be a folk processed form of another Twi/Asante day name: "Afua" = female born on Friday; [African variants: Afi, Afia, and Efia.

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1 comment:

  1. Notice the use of the referent "bro", a clip of the word "brother", is documented in this 1867 book and may have been used by people in the African Diaspora long before that.

    I was moved by these quotes from Slaves Songs Of The South that are featured in this pancocojams post:
    "Stan' is a very common word, in the sense of look. "My back stan' like white man," was a boast which meant that it was not scarred with the lash. "


    ..."You can't broke lub. Man can't broke lub. Lub stan'--'e ain't gwine broke. Man hab to be berry smart for broke lub. Lub is a ting stan' jus' like tar; arter he stick, he stick, he ain't gwine move. He can't move less dan you burn him. Hab to kill all two arter he lub 'fo' you broke lub."
    In standard English = "You can't break love. A man can't break love. Love stands firm and it can't be broken. A man has to be very smart to break love. Love is a thing that is just like tar - after it sticks, it is stuck and it isn't going to move. It can't move unless you burn it. You have to kill both halves [both of the two people who love each other] before you break up love."

    [Additions and corrections welcome]