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What do you know about the words you use. Do you really know the American language and the words that make it up. Today we present the second program in a new series on the American language by Mitford Matthews. Mr. Matthews is editor in chief of the Dictionary of American isms published by the University of Chicago Press and is lecturer in linguistics at the University of Chicago. Today's program is on the colonists go a borrowing Mr. Matthews. Anyone who leaves home and undertakes to make his way in an environment different from the one in which he was brought up finds that the vocabulary he set out with has to be revamped to serve him most effectively in his new situation. The prodigal son when he at last returned to his father's house brought with him certain words and expressions which his father and elder brother had never heard before and no doubt some of them they didn't care at all for.
After they found out what the new element he had added to his vocabulary and me. The European colonists who at the beginning of the 17th century landed at Jamestown and Plymouth soon found that their vocabulary was not entirely sufficient for new world use. It had to be expanded in numerous directions and discussing new objects the like of which the colonists had never even dreamed of when they set out for the shore. The trees in the Far East were different from what they had known before. The plants and wild flowers were striking the animals in the woods. The birds that flew overhead the fish that swam in the rivers and along the sea coast. Even the food and drink upon which the newcomers had to depend for their living were all new. And here the two untasted by Europeans.
The weather was so different that new terms had to be found in speaking up under such circumstances it was inevitable that they were Cavalera they brought along with them had to be over how many of the words they brought along turned out to be of not much practical use over here. Terms such as no woman he game preserve the established church or parliament. They needed only occasionally. On the other hand they had to have new words in a hurry. That is not to be understood of course that they held a council and debated the matter and cast about for ways and means of remedying their linguistic deficiency. Possibly a ploy to get a committee to look into the matter and report at a later time. Neither did it occur to them to send the delegation back to England to have some words made accord according to certain specifications and sent over to them by the next boat. They followed the much wiser and
more practical plan of paying no attention whatever to their speech. They did not even realize that their vocabulary was defective and that day by day they were augmenting and changing it. As occasion offered the column US supplied themselves with such terms as they had to have. One of the handiest sources from which they could get new words. Why is their Indian neighbors without any ado. The columnist began the borrower's from the Indian and this source for enriching they were Cavalera has been drawn upon continuously for more than three hundred years. The first borrowings were of course made on the Atlantic coast are near it all across the continent as the sons of Jacob took up their abodes in the tents of the children of him.
This borrowing of words went on the most recent that additions being made on the Pacific coast among the earliest borrowings that I remained in the language. Are such terms as Hickory. Harmony. Moccasin. Moose opossum. Who's to com home powwow racoon skunk squash scrawl tomahawk lamp a wigwam. Among those barred later as the high tide crept across the common not arcades Chandu high mucky muck who get who Chino caver Klondike pony pemmican soup three peat Yosemite who Chino may appear to be a word of no particular importance but it is the one from which
we have obtained the slang term hooch meaning whiskey an expression which seems to be fading from the Cavalera already. In addition to borrowing a great many words the columnists and those who came after them took over from Indian customs and use our fancied Indian use men and new ways of expressing themselves. They added such expressions as to smoke the pipe of peace to dig up the hatchet to bury the hatchet to go on the warpath and they spoke of ticket scalpers and of scalping the market. The enemy and spoke of the president in Washington as the Great White Father. And this usage was adopted by white people. The Indians call the Europeans pay our faces and this turn was added to the English language. The Indians observed
that the newcomers especially the Virginians were much given to carrying large not just some of them even wearing so much and they dubbed the Americans big Not great not long now. And these terms were promptly grabbed up by those to whom they had been applied. The NBA teams were under the impression the honey bee were never seen in this capital the white people came so they called the B the white man's flour and the white man commenting on the usage added this name temporarily to his own language in Ewing member as a kind of plan which the Indians said they had never seen before white folks. OK Vermont so they call it a white man's foot. And to this day it is sometimes so referred to the Cherokee Indians insisted that they had never seen white clover until the pale faces came. And they
named it white man's foot grass saying it powers the white man. In the West the laisser Indians watch the white man's long laboring trains creeping across the blind and they heard the bull whacker calling Warhol to their straining ox apparently having no word of their own. The Big East. The drivers were making site use. They end the ends Deb. them with Hawk and White Man I'm pleased with this new term picked it up and used it themselves for a time. Also these western Indians often greeted white people with the expression how for a long time scholars have wondered whether this form of greeting might not be a cut down version of the English. How do you do or how do the enemy and made much use of the expression higher in connections where I'm out of time upgrading.
Often with them it meant. Come on let's begin our man take it over from the Indians and use it in giving toasts were it had the meaning of here's to your hair. The Sioux Indians had a word hollow which my arm may not. Be the source of this or how. Of course the columnists and those that came after them by are more Indian words than they actually need. Many of their borrowings they used them threw away. Nobody nowadays speaks of any shell. But of an earlier period this Narragansett Indian name was used for a silver a great deal found in eastern Massachusetts. It's no bother now I would know what the word P is if it should appear in the daily paper. But in the seventeenth century it was a common word for a kind of shell man of the Indians you another financial expression that had not been
retained. Is he Aqua. The name of a former Hill man I used on the Pacific coast. Another word need top meaning Fran was once in fairly wide use in New England. But it is to be doubted if it still occur. The fact that there are so many of these on used Indian terms lying around in the language suggests an easy way of disposing of the problem of our agenda which many words present. For example there was in former years a name man and no use for our kind of crab found on the shores of tidal rivers in the Carolinas and elsewhere. These were reputed to be excellent for increasing the vital powers of man and for converting barren women and the mothers of large families. Nobody has been able to come up with a convincing explanation of the origin of man Atos the readiest way of
disposing of it is to regard it as one of those thrown away end in terms that have been found of not much use after all before the word went out of use altogether. One etymologist had become so bold as to say positively that the word is an end in art and that there are gun cams supplied. Furthermore So he said the literal meaning of the end in him was shellfish. That one gathers by hand. In former times there was a News in some parts of the South but now in pilot obsolete word Margot for. More than a century ago this word was used for the big hardshell land titles are Tartous is found in the south. The word shows up in a Georgian newspaper of 1789 and struggled along as best it could for 50 years or so afterwards before dropping out of use altogether.
Nobody knows where it might have come from. It takes no magination to think it might have been an Indian name for the creature concerned. And its lack was easy to speculate that it may be the ancestor of the modern word gopher. Used in the South for that same hard shell land turtle. It's very easy to get GO FAR FROM MY GOAL FOR. By merely dropping the first syllable. Many people have visited the Florida Everglades or those inland seas of low swamp land overgrown in places with high grass and interspersed with hammocks and islands of tree. It may come as a surprise to those who have had no occasion to thank my for the matter but this word Everglade is an American colony and it is one of those words that have occasioned much study and speculation on the part of scholars. It seems to have been made by merely putting together two old words ever and late but if
so it is not easy to make out the sense of ever was in the mind of the one who fashioned the word in Everglade ever seems to mean terminable. But this is a meaning. It has never had in view of the difficulty. Professor crapper Columbia University in a book he wrote about American English ventured the suggestion that Everglade may be a corruption of some long ago forgotten Indian term. You have heard Mitford Matthews in a talk on the columnists go a borrowing. This is the second programme in the series the American language. Mr Matthews is editor of the Dictionary of American isms a lecturer in linguistics at the University of Chicago. This program was produced in the University of Chicago radio office by Thomas de parish. This is the end I ybe tape network.
American language
The colonists go a-borrowing
Producing Organization
University of Chicago
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
The second program in this series, "The Colonists Go A-Borrowing," talks about the influence of Native Americans on colonists' language usage.
Series Description
A series of talks by Mitford Mathews, editor of the Dictionary of Americanisms and lecturer in linguistics at the University of Chicago.
Broadcast Date
English language--United States--Etymology.
Media type
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Producer: Parrish, Thomas (Thomas D.)
Producing Organization: University of Chicago
Speaker: Mathews, Mitford M. (Mitford McLeod), 1891-1985
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 54-8-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:13:41
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Chicago: “American language; The colonists go a-borrowing,” 1954-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 13, 2024,
MLA: “American language; The colonists go a-borrowing.” 1954-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 13, 2024. <>.
APA: American language; The colonists go a-borrowing. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from