29 September 2009

Dixie's Land

My Uncle Mike is one of the funniest people I know. He's not funny in that he's cracking jokes every second--he's more like... just a comical person... a highly amusing person to be around. I love Uncle Mike.

Tonight he said, "Do you know where they got 'Dixieland' from?" I never know if he's really serious in what he's about to tell me. "The word, 'Dixieland,' do you know where it came from?" Two things happened. A. I was surprised because I'm pretty sure Uncle Mike is clueless about my interest in linguistic trivia, and B. I stopped to think about it, and realized I had never thought about it before. Where does the word "Dixie" come from?

He said something along the lines of: You know, the French used to own this area, the South, and you know what their word for "ten" is? That's right. Dix. --and they had paper money with 10 on it, and we became Dixieland.

The ten dollar notes were issued by private banks in Louisiana, and colloquially referred to as "dixies" by English-speaking Southerners, and the area around New Orleans and the Cajun-speaking parts of Louisiana became known as "Dixieland."

I had no idea! But it makes sense. I came home to research it. Turns out, that is only one of three etymological explanations. The actual origin of the term is not necessarily known.

A lot of transcriptions say "Dixie's Land" instead of "Dixieland."
There is a story about a slave owner whose name was Dixy, and he was very "kind" to his slaves, and when he died, his slaves mourned his death intensely. Thus Dixie's Land became a synonym for "paradise" and during the Civil War, the minstrel song "Dixie's Land," written by Daniel D. Emmett became popular among the slaves.

The dictionary says the word origin comes from the Mason-Dixon line, which for the most part, separated free and slave states.
I guess that could be it, too.

I'm honestly most inclined to believe the first explanation, strictly due to geographical references. The money explanation has New Orleans/French Louisiana as it's center. The "kind" Dixy in the second story was actually a slave-owner in Manhattan, NY--even though the song became popular in the South during the Civil War. And the Mason-Dixon line, well, yes it separated the North from the South but... isn't New Orleans the heart of Dixie?

We have Dixie beer brewed here, and Winn-Dixie supermarkets. Ok, ok. Dixie Beer is actually currently brewed in Heuber Brewery in Wisconsin (but only since Katrina flooded the brewery here), and Winn-Dixie supermarkets are based out of Jacksonville, FL and have stores in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and Mississippi.

Why do I think that New Orleans is the heart of Dixie, then?
The Dixie Chicks are from Dallas, TX--and they got their name from a Little Feat album, Dixie Chickens. Which brings me to the music! Dixieland Jazz aka New Orleans Jazz is the earliest style of recorded jazz ever. It's all about the music! The term Dixieland became widely used after the advent of the first million-selling hit records of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1917.

Louis Armstrong's trumpet is often thought of as the definitive sound of Dixieland. There are now several "styles" of Dixieland Jazz, including Chicago-style, and West-Coast revival. There are even international dixieland jazz music festivals, like the one in Dresden, Germany and the one in Catalonia, Spain.

How fun would it be to go to one of those? and say, "I live in the heart of Dixie."

27 September 2009

the worst bank.

So I happen to work on the Worst Bank of New Orleans. aka the "West Bank."
The culture there is so radically different from New Orleans itself, and even that--of course--can be subdivided into countless cultures--which some people can pinpoint down to the subdivision you grew up in or high school you attended.
as I'm sure it is with all places.
The West Bank culture is very curious to me, and comical.

I've discovered they find verbs unnecessary.

"This phone a piece of crap!"
"My momma at home!"

I recently received a text message from one of my co-workers, which I absolutely LOVED.
She managed to fit that verb in just fine:

"We on are way."

25 September 2009


Um. Some people make fun of the way George W. Bush says "America." And... some people like to then continuously say "ummerka" --as if it were an "amen."
Well, someone recently told me "you know 'umerka' actually means something." ...but when I asked her what, she didn't remember.
So here's the answer:
the lees or sediment of olive oil.
a city in S Somalia.
That's it.

24 September 2009

Lafayette, LA

My friend Quentin is from Lafayette, LA. Lafayette was founded by a French-speaking Acadian named Jean Mouton (aka Jean Sheep)--therefore, Lafayette developed as the Cajun center of Louisiana. We've talked about the Cajuns before, and a lot of Cajun phrases are completely new to me, so I enjoy hearing about them.

Q insists people will say "to my house" instead of "at my house"--presumably coming as a direct translation of "c'est a ma maison" where the preposition "a" can be translated as "to" or "at."

Considering Cajuns say all kinds of crazy things like "making groceries" (to shop for groceries, a calque of the Cajun French faire des groceries) and "my eye!" or "my foot!" to mean "no way!"--in French, it's pretty common to say "mon oeil!" or "mon pied!" to express disbelief-- so this doesn't surprise me.

I had just never heard it before.

Also, here is a map of where Cajun English is spoken.

I'll also go ahead and mention that Q makes it a point to refer to his people as Creole, not Cajun. I mean, that's understandable, because they actually are Creole, not Cajun--but to people who aren't either, there aren't really any real connotations either way. But Quentin talks about how Cajun carries so many negative implications that Creole doesn't... which is funny to me.

is derived from the Latin word "crear", which meant, "create." In 1590, Father J. de Acosta decided that the mixed breeds born in the New World were neither Spanish, African, Indian, but various mixtures of all three, thus a created race. So he identified them as "Criollos".

Creoles also have their own brand of French. Over time, the black Créoles and Africans created a French and West African hybrid language called Créole French or Louisiana Creole French. It was used in some circumstances by slaves, planters and free people of color alike. It is still spoken today in central Louisiana.

People who are neither Cajun nor Creole often have trouble identifying the differences between the two. Culturally, they started off very differently, but as Spanish and then French Catholics took over the region, the cultural blending progressed.

Creoles were the first European settlers in New Orleans and the Mississippi river plantations. The considered themselves of aristocratic decent. Their heritage was of France, Spanish or Portuguese origins. Creoles were considered to be very wealthy. Some were given high political appointments by the crown. Creole holdings involved shipping, banking and plantation ownership. Their businesses faltered after the Civil War without slave labor.

Acadians (Cajuns) originating from the West coast of France (Brittny/Normandy) first settled Nova Scotia in 1604. Most were of peasant descent with little or no education, who worked with their hands. After being loaded on ships by the British, who expelled they from Nova Scotia, they began arriving in Louisiana about 1765. Cajuns mostly settled the bayous and open prairies where they could continue their trades of trapping, fishing and farming.

It seems--by Quentin's attitude anyway--that a little bit of snobbery still lingers. How curious!

23 September 2009

Hundreds and Thousands!

Andw told me something wonderful yesterday.
In the UK, as well as in Australia and New Zealand...
aaaah I can't contain my giggles!
Wiki of course has a whole article devoted to sprinkle-nomenclature. It goes on to say that "hundreds and thousands" typically refer to the spherical type of sprinkles, while "sugar strands" are... just that.

Hebrew and Yiddish

Soo we always make fun of my friend Magee for being a Jew. He's not actually Jewish, he just fits a lot of the negative stereotypes.
Anyway, one day he texted me "Mazel Tov" when I called him a Jew, which I knew to be a completely inappropriate response. I didn't say anything, but he soon replied "After looking up yiddish phrases, I think 'ikh hob dir in drerd' is more appropriate." and then "Or even better: a kholeryeh."
This all looked surprisingly German to me--so I started wondering what the connection/difference between Hebrew and Yiddish is. I asked ChaCha, who responded "Hebrew is the ancient language of the Jews. Yiddish is a modern language, more similar to German, that uses the Hebrew alphabet." As I suspected!
So Hebrew came first, obviously.

Modern Hebrew is currently spoken in Israel, and classical Hebrew is spoken around the world in Jewish communities.
Linguistically, Hebrew is related to Arabic and Aramaic (during the Babylonian captivity, more Aramaic got mixed in there. But... culturally speaking... Aramaic represented the hated language of slavery, conquest, and occupation, while Hebrew remained the language of Israel's history and national pride. Preserved largely by Israel proper, Hebrew continued to be a thriving language until shortly before the Byzantine era.)
Anyway, proper Hebrew became scholarly, and between the 2nd and 19th centuries, dialects formed all over the place, seeing as how there were Jews all over the place. These dialects included Ladino (aka Judezmo aka Judeo-Spanish), Yiddish and a slew of Judeo-Arabic tongues.
The Second Aliyah refers to when a bunch of Jews--mostly from Russia and Poland--came to Ottoman Palestine. Due to this, around this time (early 1900s) a lot of those other Hebrew dialects died out and traditional Hebrew was re-vamped to include a bunch of that stuff left over from those dialects, as well as more Arabic and Aramaic, not to mention English and other European languages. In 1948 Hebrew became the official language of Israel.
So where did Yiddish come from!?
Well... the Ashkenazi Jews are the ones that came from the Rhineland valley (in the west of Germany) and northern France around the 10th century... when all those dialects were spreading. Hasidic Jews still grow up speaking Yiddish today.
Traces remain in the contemporary Yiddish vocabulary: for example, בענטשן (bentshn, to bless), from the Latin benedicere; and the personal name Anshl, cognate to Angel or Angelo. Western Yiddish includes additional words of Latin derivation (but still very few): for example, orn (to pray), cf. Latin "orare."
But it seems to have really been born out of a mix of German with Hebrew words tossed in. The big difference is that it was always written with the Hebrew alphabet. Not until the 15th century could you even really say that German and Yiddish were two different languages if you heard them spoken. So really, Yiddish developed as a transliteration of German into the Hebrew alphabet. How cool!
גוּט טַק אִים בְּטַגְֿא שְ וַיר דִּיש מַחֲזֹור אִין בֵּיתֿ הַכְּנֶסֶתֿ טְרַגְֿא

gut tak im betage se vaer dis makhazor in beis hakneses trage

May a good day come to him who carries this prayer book into the synagogue.

How wild!
So... "Mazel Tov" did indeed come from Yiddish...
There are also some words that Yiddish speakers who live in English speaking countries have adopted into their vocabulary. They call this