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HIGH-MUCK-A-MUCK

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HIGH-MUCK-A-MUCK

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Mar 05, 2012 11:08 pm

• high-muck-a-muck •

Pronunciation: hai-mêk-ê-mêk • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A derisive term referring to someone who is pompous and arrogant; a big wheel, a grand pooh-bah, a panjandrum.

Notes: This is a word we use to jeer someone who is too big for his britches. It is a playful word although it bears an insulting message. This word comes to us without a family, but we do have several variants: high-you-muck-a-muck, high-muckety-muck, and high-mucky-muck.

In Play: No doubt the high in today's Good Word was influenced by the phrase, "high and mighty", since this expression means about the same as today's word: "Portia Carr likes to hob-nob with the high-muck-a-mucks at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach." Her husband, Parker, doesn't share her interests.

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Chinook jargon: hayo "plenty" + mucka-muck "food". It came into English around 1850 as high-you-muck-a-muck, then transitioned into what it is today. The Chinook jargon was a pidgin used from Washington and Oregon up to Alaska to facilitate trade between peoples not speaking the same language. A pidgin is not a language but a simple list of words, all related to trade, that speakers of both languages know. When a pidgin develops a grammar of its own, it then becomes a creole. To be a creole, a pidgin must have a fully fledged grammar and become the native language of a community. In some areas Chinook took on these features. (David Stevens is no high-muck-a-muck, but he is much appreciated at alphaDictionary for his contribution of today's Good Word.)
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Postby call_copse » Tue Mar 06, 2012 7:22 am

Most interesting discourse re: Chinook / pidgin / creole - cheers, I had not understood that.
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Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:30 pm

Nor I. Especially how a pidgin develops a grammar
it becomes a creole. Knowing the use of the term
creole, I wonder when and how this happened and
became a rule of law in the language department.
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Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Mar 06, 2012 1:27 pm

There must be another use of creole, at least in LA. It's my underestanding that Creoles are descendants of Spanish and French settlers from colonial days. My understanding is they are proud of their heritage and don't like to be confused with Cajuns, who descended from Canadian French, not European. There are also Creole dishes in cookbooks. Any south LA people want to chime in here?
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Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue Mar 06, 2012 1:32 pm

Basically that is my understanding as well. We have
creole restaurants here. Cajuns are Acadians, if I
understand that correctly. Doc's use of pidgin
turning to creole, must be a different use of the term,
one of which I am not familiar.
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Postby Philip Hudson » Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:59 pm

Doc has it right. This is the standard linguistics definition of pidgin and a creole. My spell check insists I spell creole with a capital letter and even supplies one for me automatically that I must override. My understanding is that with a capital letter, Creole means French creole. (Someone correct me if I am wrong. It would save me a bunch of editing.) The lower case creole can be applied to French or other creoles, from French or from some other parent language. The Louisiana Creoles are people who, among other characteristics, speak a particular French creole. They got their name from the kind of language they spoke. There are creoles other than French.

French Creoles in Louisiana changed their language past an accent or a dialect and to a creole due to separation from the majority of the speakers of French. The Cajuns or Acadians developed a different creole from Canadian French for the same reason. Haitian is also a French creole. Do not tell a Canadian French person what I am about to write unless you want to get a knuckle sandwich. My cousin, a French/French creole student and translator, tells me that Canadian French is pretty much past the dialect stage and has bloomed into its own creole. If you are French Canadian, please don’t attack me. I am not the expert that my cousin is. I have spent a lot of time in Montreal and have New York French Canadians as close friends. They all think they speak Parisian French. I do not know much French. I am not so prejudiced against French as was my Germanic German professor. He spat every time he said a French word and muttered “bastard Latin”. He also said that the mother of the French language wore army boots. If you are a Francophile I mean no disrespect. I am only quoting my elders.

The designations of language, accent, dialect and creole merge at their edges. There can be disagreement as to whether two small speech groups you may have never heard of, Falklandese and San Andrésese, are English dialects or English creoles. For lack of a proper name for these speech groups, I coined the words Falklandese and San Andrésese. They are the two speech systems of people of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic and the San Andrés Islands in the lower Caribbean. It seems from my research that Falkland English is a dialect with Spanish influence. Friends who have been there say this is an understatement and that is a creole. The language in San Andrés is officially English but they speak an English creole. I have personal knowledge of San Andrés since we have a small English speaking university there. The language is shifting to Spanish since it is now a part of Columbia and has a large Mexican immigrant population.

Not all creoles are preceded by pidgins. In all the examples above the creoles derived from a parent language and not a pidgin. I am less familiar with creoles that have developed from pidgins. I believe Swahili is such a speech but will gladly stand corrected.

The use of words can be political. China says its people speak many Chinese dialects. This is definitely not true. They speak entirely different languages. China wants to present itself as a monolith. Hence this fiction.

Please forgive the length of this entry. This part if linguistics is of special interest to me. If you can’t forgive me I hope you long since stopped reading my ramblings.
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Postby call_copse » Wed Mar 07, 2012 7:52 am

I was interested Philip, thanks. My wife speaks Swahili (Kiswahili) which I do understand to have been derived from the Zanzibar tongue and used for trading purposes by Arabs along the East African coast. Wikipedia says the origin was too far back to be reliably sourced but it could easily have been a pidgin going on creole from what has been said.

The language of the Seychelles is Seychellois, which is I believe a true creole (they say for instance 'un lerat' for rat, running the French 'le' into the noun). Perhaps they have a Creole culture too?

Anyway, anyone want to suggest 'patois' as a future WOTD? :D
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Postby Perry Lassiter » Wed Mar 07, 2012 11:21 am

Thanx Philip for an excellent and informative discussion. I wonder if it's possible to move most of the comments on this post to its own section labeled Creole. Next year, when I want to review this, I'll never remember to look under High-muck-a-muck. Or would it show up on a search?
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Postby LukeJavan8 » Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:21 pm

Fascinating.
Perhaps it could be moved to a new word section under
"Patois". I don't know how to move things or I would
do it.
I was totally absorbed by your explanation. Thank
you for taking the time to give it to us.
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Postby Philip Hudson » Wed Mar 07, 2012 2:00 pm

As us (sic) rednecks say, "Much obliged for the comments on my post."

As one says in modern slang, "My bad for forgetting Patois." Patois are either non-standard dialects (whatever that means) or technical jargon. Patois is a plural word with apparently no singular form. That seems odd to me. One would think there should be a word "patoi". Patois are important to languages. They do not seem to be a part of a sequence in language development.

Patois certainly add words almost daily to English. "Bit" and "byte" were once patois. I was there when they were invented and named. I tried to scuttle "chip" for an integrated circuit because to me chips are what cows defecate. I wasn't high enough in the technology hierarchy to get my way.

Here is an example of a pidgin word. I think it is from a southeastern Asian pidgin that obviously uses an English word base. I have put spaces in for clarity. It is actually one long word. “Big black box many teeth some white some black fella hit teeth box cry” means a piano, of course.

I believe Swahili is the source of the new names, such as Shakisha, given to some African Americans.

It is easy to open a thread in Alpha Angora but I do not know how to transfer a segment of a thread to a new thread. Who can help us?
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Postby Philip Hudson » Wed Mar 07, 2012 2:40 pm

From my previous post, when I wrote "Alpha Angora" I was not trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes. I really know the difference between "angora" and "agora'. I an just weak at spelling and spell check did not know the word I meant. Please forgive me.
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Postby Slava » Wed Mar 07, 2012 4:13 pm

Philip Hudson wrote:It is easy to open a thread in Alpha Angora but I do not know how to transfer a segment of a thread to a new thread. Who can help us?
As far as I know, you have two options:

1 - Write to the Dr. and ask him to help out.
2 - Start a new thread yourself, explaining in the first post that it is a continuation of this thread, with a link to it.

I'd go for #2 myself, as you control it.

As to patois, this spelling is both singular and plural, so there is such a thing as A patois. It comes from the French and means provincial language, more literally, clumsy language. So a patois in English might be what them thar country foks use when they want to aks you a question.

Creole is very interesting, too. I never knew that it could refer to foreign plants and animals, too.
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Postby wurdpurrson » Mon Mar 26, 2012 1:44 am

Boy did I learn a lot from all of your exchanges - thanks! Just illustrates how fluid languages and cultures can be. I doubt if the very first hominid who vocalized thoughts to attempt communication in words could have had any concept as to where that path would lead. Fascinating.
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Postby Slava » Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:06 pm

wurdpurrson wrote:Boy did I learn a lot from all of your exchanges - thanks! Just illustrates how fluid languages and cultures can be. I doubt if the very first hominid who vocalized thoughts to attempt communication in words could have had any concept as to where that path would lead. Fascinating.
What's perhaps even more fascinating is that after all this time with language we still can't really say where it is leading.
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Postby wurdpurrson » Tue Mar 27, 2012 4:24 pm

True. And in spite of our acquired relative sophistication, we as a species are so lousy at communicating cross-culturally.
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