The noises we make

More from Jesperson's "Language":  just as we call birds by their sounds, cultures develop names for foreign visitors that reflect their characteristic verbal tics:
A special subdivision of particular interest comprises those names, or nicknames, which are sometimes popularly given to nations from words continually occurring in their speech. Thus the French used to call an Englishman a god-damn (godon), and in China an English soldier is called a-says or I-says. In Java a Frenchman is called orang-deedong (orang 'man'), in America ding-dong, and during the Napoleonic wars the French were called in Spain didones, from dis-donc; another name for the same nation is wi-wi (Australia), man-a-wiwi (in Beach-la-mar), or oui-men (New Caledonia). In Eleonore Christine's Jammersminde 83 I read, "Ich habe zwei parle mi franço gefangen," and correspondingly Goldsmith writes (Globe ed. 624): "Damn the French, the parle vous, and all that belongs to them. What makes the bread rising? the parle vous that devour us." In Rovigno the surrounding Slavs are called čuje from their exclamation čuje 'listen, I say,' and in Hungary German visitors are called vigéc (from wie geht's?), and customs officers vartapiszli (from wart' a bissl). Round Panama everything native is called spiggoty, because in the early days the Panamanians, when addressed, used to reply, "No spiggoty [speak] Inglis." In Yokohama an English or American sailor is called Damuraīsu H'to from 'Damn your eyes' and Japanese H'to 'people.'


Grim said...

Damuraīsu H'to. I like it. It reminds me of my Chinese name.

I think my beard is now longer and bigger even than it was in those days. I was told yesterday that I'm looking more and more like my father.

james said...

That looks like an interesting book.

Tom said...

H'to is interesting. It marks the book from the days before we had a standardized spelling for Japanese words. Today we'd write Hito, but the i sound is so short that H'to is probably more accurate in pronunciation.

douglas said...

I'll add one that Americans came up with- at least that's what my father told me (He went to ALS Monterey for 18 months to learn Korean in 1953).

The now derogatory term 'Gook' probably came from the Korean for "American" which is "mi gook". A GI hearing this and not knowing any Korean could easily take it to mean "Me gook" in pidgen English, and thereby think 'O.K., you gook'.

I guess the moral of the story is be careful what you try to say to those who do not understand your language.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Most tribes' name for themselves is "The Folk," "the People," "The Real People."

Gringo said...

Most tribes' name for themselves is "The Folk,"

Please don't inform me that their leader is usually named Barack. :)

Tom said...

AVI, that actually comes up in the movie "Little Big Man."

An interesting note about Chinese characters and America. The Chinese characters used in Korea and China for the US literally mean "Beautiful Country": 美国. Japan, however, uses the characters "Rice Country": 米国. I don't know why, but I think I'll try to find out.

Grim said...

The reason for the Chinese name is phonetic, Tom. In Mandarin 美国 is pronounced in a way that sounds like "May go," that is like the month of the year plus the word for going somewhere. We were saying that we were from "America," and what they had that fit was "May-rica." The second character is just the word for country -- it is a king character enclosed by a border -- so that's where they got that name.

Apparently the Japanese name is an artifact of kanji, that is, an attempt to write rather than say the name.

Tom said...

Thanks! Very interesting link.

Actually, though, the article says the Japanese name was based on pronunciation.

The old 'ateji' word is: 亜米利加 (ah-meh-ri-kah).

The first character is 'a', but was already in use for Asia(亜細亜), so apparently they took the second character, 'me.'

That page also explains something else I've wondered about for a long time. The Japanese abbreviation for Holland is 蘭 (ran). I wondered why some form of 'ho' or 'o' wasn't used, but the 'o' is 和(和蘭 = o-ran = Holland). 和 is the character for Japan(和国), so they used the second character there as well.

douglas said...

Tom- Wait, so you're telling me that the Japanese were calling us 'meh-ri-kah first?

Who knew?!