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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 final program in a series on the American language by Mitford Matthews. Mr. Matthews is editor in chief of the dictionary of Americanisms published by the University of Chicago Press and he's a lecturer in linguistics at the University of Chicago. Today's program is on words from all over. Mr. Matthews. In previous talks we have called attention to languages from which Americans have taken over new words. We have noted less from Origin taken from Indian languages from Dutch German French and Spanish. It remains to mention a brief listen term borrowed from a few of the less fertile sources from which Americans have augmented their vocabulary. In the Pacific Northwest. There is a trade language composed of a mixture of native Indian words and
other English terms French words and of others from sources not easily identified. The name given to this formal speech in Chinook jargon. The word Chinook being used here because a good many of the expressions making up the lingo are from the speech of the Chinook Indians. A few words from this jargon are trade language have passed into the main current of American speech. For example high mucky muck has been clearly traced to that source. It is a term sometimes used now for a person a real are fancied important big but their slang meaning is quite different from their original sense of the expression. Among the end ins of the Northwest muck a muck meant food and there were high you meant planting a lot for all. The first American traders and explorers to come in contact with the Indians barred their expression Hi you
in imitation of and in the manner of speaking they referred in a thing that was abundant as hi you. English speaking Americans also appropriated the Indian term mark a mark which they found in extensive use among the natives both as a noun meaning provisions are food and as a verb meaning to eat at a time when there is an abundance of food. For example when the salmon were running in the Columbia River the joyous crowd of the Indians and no doubt a white man of whale high you muck a muck that is lots of food food in the display. There was something attractive about the expression. And in addition to being used with reference to the most important thing food in the lives of the Indians and brown tears meant it soon became shortened to high muck a muck and passed into the use already mentioned
with a reference to a person of importance. It may not be as well-known now as it formally was in this sense but it is then applied to persons for nearly a century. Another term we have from the Chinook jargon aside wash. And in the case of this word also there had been a remarkable shift in the original meaning of it despite its spelling and pronunciation. Sila washes Chinook jargon term taken from the French word meaning a savage. In the jargon of speech it simply means an Indian of the Northern Pacific coast. This is the sense in which the term first came into American language and it is the one which the stern term still has. But in recent years the word has been used for a small nameless college. Regarded as typical of its class. When we speak of Darrow's wash. We have in mind in a small relatively unknown college.
Regarded with a special little loyal affection by its students. The language of the Eskimo has not been by any means a rich mine for terms with which to include increase the capacities of American English. But there have been a few words borrowed from that source in Alaska and no doubt elsewhere. Muckluck. Is used for a seal skin or a seal skin to boot. It is the Eskimo word for a large sea parka is another term from the same source. This word comes from the language of the Eskimos around the Aleutian Islands. They use it as the main for their overall outside garment which in their economy is made of skin. Parka as it is used in American English refers to a somewhat similar garment but it need not be made to scan. The word is also used part especially warm good usually of a pointed shape. From the Hawaiian
islands there come a few words to enrich the vocabulary of American English who are more often who look. Is an expression which first made its way into the speech of Californians nearly a century ago. And has now become well-known all over the country. The whole why INS used it as the name of a native dance performed by women in American English it is likewise used as the name of a dance and the combination Hula Hula dancer is not infrequently used. Perhaps the most widespread and most popular of the words brought from Hawaii is ukulele. Surprisingly enough this word in Hawaii means fully the well-known insect. The small guitar now called a ukulele. Are you as the word is sometimes shortened appeared not to be a native Hawaiian instrument. But if we are to believe what we read it was introduced into the alums about 18 6:53 by
Portuguese sailors. The natives who first heard and saw this instrument played were greatly impressed by the nimbleness with which the players thing years hopped and skipped about on the straying. Finger action of the player suggested to them the rapid movements of the fleet. Hence their application of their word ukulele meaning a flea to the new instrument. From Japanese a few words have come into American I think. One of the most widespread of these is tak whom this word might bear well of been brought back by members of Paris mission to Japan and 1853. Commodore Perry had been sent to Japan to try to open up trade relations between the United States and that country. He must of had to deal with the military head of the Japanese government an official to whom the Japanese when speaking to foreigners gave the title of
Pak. There two words are elements in this title. The first of these is pass meaning great and the second is you meaning Prince. Both these elements are Chinese in origin but the Japanese took them over and combine them into one expression thing which had never been done in Chinese itself. Their action in this matter reminds us of how in this country we have often taken old English words and fashion them into new combinations such as cornbread catcher bookstore and others too numerous to mention. This Japanese creation as has been mentioned was used by the AMA speaking to foreigners as the title for their military ruler. It must have been in that sense that Commodore Perry and those with him first became acquainted with the term.
At any rate the first use made in this country of this new Japanese Barling attack Kuhn was an affectionate nickname for Abraham Lincoln who was at the time he was given this nickname the commander in chief of the military forces of the United States. Later raccoon was used for anyone who occupied a dominant position in industry our business. From Chinese We've secured a few terms. Relating cheap little food. Chow Chow made its way into the American use in California more than a century ago. It was brought there by the Chinese who flocked to the GO field in the days of the Florida miners. The term soon got cut down to Chad and the shortened form of it is much used especially by soldiers. Charmayne goes along with these other terms though it is not as old in American use as they are this term seemed not to come into use until the present century was well underway.
Chop Suey this seems to be a little older though no evidence for it in American use has been found earlier than one thousand three. This expression is an altered version of the Chinese one meaning the pieces odds and ends. The dish known as Chop Suey is said to have been invented by a Chinese dishwasher in a restaurant. But there is no confirmation at hand for this. Another term months are pleasant as these mentioned that is coming into American news from the early Chinese in San Francisco is Tom. It is perhaps not used as much now as it formally was. It means an association especially a secret one made up of Chinese. It is said that the first of these associations were formed in San Francisco by Chinese who observe the injustices and exploitations visited upon the weaker of their race and who
taking as their example the earlier vigilance committees in that area organize the first of these. Tom no matter what the origin of the Association of might have been they developed into powerful organizations that sometimes in large cities used to war on each other over gambling and opium smoking privileges. It is to be hoped that we have seen and heard the last of the Tom wars as they recall the institution of slavery that once existed in this country as well as everywhere else in the world is responsible for some common words that have passed from the use of slaves and of the speech of their former masters. Some of these words are still more used in the South than they are in other parts of the country. For example in the south a peanut. As often as not it's called a goober are pinned there and these names are also heard outside the South. They're both
African words brought here from the Congo region where they're used for the pain that it is interesting to notice that the basic meaning of the African word from which we get goober is kidney. It is thought that in Africa this word for kidney was applied to the peanut because the shape of the arm chair and that is often somewhat like that of a kidney gumbo is a word that has been mentioned in a previous talk. It is lack was an African term brought in by Negroes in earlier times in the speech of the natives of Angola in West Africa. The word from which we get gumbo means okra. We have made little or no use of it in this sense. But it is in wide use as the name of a famous New Orleans soup of which Gray is an essential ingredient gumbo filet which has already been mentioned is one of the most popular forms of this soup. Voodoo is another African word that
has taken its place in American English it added the language in Louisiana more than 100 years ago with reference to charms pale secret rites and so poorly made use of so called Congress and witch doctors practicing their art upon the negroes and Creole. The word is not on my advent and numerous combinations but it been you'd also as a verb meaning to which though that use is no longer common a derivative ism is in wide use. Hoodoo which is believed to be of a and of hoodoo. Has prospered even more than voodoo. It has several meanings. Sometimes it's used for a malignant spare or anything that called it bad luck or it may be used for a person who carded bad fortune about 1850 when Americans first became acquainted with those weirdly shaped curiously eroded rock and land masses
American language
Words from all over
Producing Organization
University of Chicago
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
The final program in this series discusses the influence of various languages, like Eskimo and Chinook, upon American English.
Other Description
A series of talks by Mitford Mathews, editor of the Dictionary of Americanisms and lecturer in linguistics at the University of Chicago.
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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: 54-8-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:30
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Chicago: “American language; Words from all over,” 1954-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 2, 2021,
MLA: “American language; Words from all over.” 1954-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 2, 2021. <>.
APA: American language; Words from all over. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from