"Roundheads and Ramblings"
Happy Halloween, everyone. This is a particularly exciting day for me, and not just because it's time for tricks and treats. It also happens to be the sixth birthday of my "Cat from Hell," Dundee McDonald Schriber. Would you believe that he just received a birthday card from his vet?
For that, they deserve a little free advertising, even if he does look a bit wild-eyed in his yearly photograph!
In even better news than the fact that we've let Dundee live for another whole year, it appears that this is the last day for me to promise that "The Road to Frogmore" will be coming soon. After three long years, starting with National Novel-Writing Month 2009, the book is finished, edited, polished, illustrated, proof-read, designed, and checked one last time. I'll be pushing the "Publish My Book!" button sometime tomorrow afternoon, and it will be available immediately on Amazon. In the meantime, here's a taste of what is to come:
A fable is an enduring lesson in human behavior
-- one that resonates with people in all cultures. And as such, a fable
is a useful device in explaining the differences in cognate languages.
The story of "The Fox and the Crow" is a good example.
probably remember the story. A female crow has found a tasty piece of
meat. She is sitting out of reach of a hungry fox, who decides to trick
her into dropping the meat. He tries several methods, but she ignores
his efforts. Then he praises her singing voice and she opens her beak
to give him her best example of a raucous caw. Mission accomplished,
along with a valuable lesson about succumbing to flattery.
The following excerpts, taken from Joseph A. Opala's website, "The Gullah: Rice, Slavery, and the Sierra Leone-American Connection
illustrate the evolution of the Gullah language. At first glance,
Gullah seems to be nothing more than broken English -- the result of
slaves trying to speak the language of their masters. But a closer
examination shows that Gullah has changed, not only the pronunciation,
but also the grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure, of the
original. And the changes reflect the slaves' original African
look at the English version. It's not quite Aesop's Fables, but rather
the English language as it was spoken by the slave owners of the Low
Fox started to talk. He said to himself, he said, "This here Crow is a
woman, not so? If I can persuade her to talk, she has to open her mouth,
not so? And if she opens her mouth, isn't it true the meat will drop
called to the Crow: "Morning girl," he said. "I am so glad you stole
that meat from the white man, because he would have thrown it away to
the dog... It makes me vexed to see a man do such a thing as that."
never cracked open her teeth! All the time Fox was talking, Crow's
mouth was shut tight on the meat, and her ears were cocked to listen.
Now here's the Gullah version. An English speaker can understand it, especially if it is read out loud.
Fox staat fuh talk. E say to eself, a say, "Dish yuh Crow duh ooman,
enty? Ef a kin suade um fuh talk, him haffuh op'n e mout, enty? En ef e
op'n e mout, enty de meat fuh drop out?"
call to de Crow: "Mawnin tittuh, " e say. "Uh so glad you tief da meat
fum de buckruh, cause him bin fuh trow-um-way pan de dog... E mek me bex
fuh see man do shishuh ting lukkuh dat."
Crow nebbuh crack a teet! All-time Fox duh talk, Crow mout shet tight pan de meat, en a yez cock fuh lissin.
Where did all those changes come from? There are words here that don't look like English at all -- enty, tittuh, yez. And the prepositions are all wrong. Let's look at the same passage in the Sierra-Leone Krio language:
Den, Fohx stat foh tohk. I sey to insef, i sey, "Dis Kro ya na uman, enti? If a kin pasweyd am foh tohk; i get foh opin in moht, enti? En if i opin in moht, enti di mit go fohdohm?"
Fohx kohl di Kro: "Mohnin titi,
" i sey. A so gladi you tif da mit frohm di weytman, bikohs i bin foh
trowey am to di dohg... I meyk a vex foh si man du tin leke dat."
Kro nohba opin in tit! Ohl di tem Fohx dey tohlx, Kro moht set tait pan di mit, en in yeys kak foh lisin.
are the same words -- borrowed from Krio, inserted into English, and
transformed into the full, and grammatically complete, new language of
Gullah. It is a stunning transformation.
This is a crucial week. Sometime in the next few days, my new book, "The Road to Frogmore: Turning Slaves into Citizens" will make its first appearance on Amazon. A unique feature of the book is a narrative thread, spoken by a Gullah woman, that runs through the entire book. Because of this feature, I'm going to re-run several articles I published about the Gullah language. I hope it will get your eyes and ears attuned to this beautiful and musical language.
The Gullah language became part of the vernacular almost one hundred
years ago, when Joel Chandler Harris wrote his Uncle Remus stories. His
characters spoke the Gullah language, although most readers thought he
was just mimicking the way black people talked.
stories have become so well-known, thanks in part to Walt Disney, that,
even today, few people today realize that the language used is very
specific and unique, a language shared by the black population along the
coast of Georgia and South Carolina. Gullah contains enough
English-based vocabulary for English-speakers to understand it, but its
syntax, sentence structure, and much of its root-vocabulary come
straight from Sierra Leone.
The stories Chandler wrote
also owe much to African legends, where the character of the "Trickster"
was a popular figure. In the next posts, we'll compare Gullah to its African
origins, But for now, here is the "Trickster" disguised as Brer
Fox in the familiar story of "Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby."
THE WONDERFUL TAR BABY STORY
Joel Chandler Harris
"Didn't the fox never catch the rabbit, Uncle Remus?" asked the little boy the next evening.
come mighty nigh it, honey, sho's you born--Brer Fox did. One day atter
Brer Rabbit fool 'im wid dat calamus root, Brer Fox went ter wuk en got
'im some tar, en mix it wid some turkentime, en fix up a contrapshun
w'at he call a Tar-Baby, en he tuck dish yer Tar-Baby en he sot 'er in
de big road, en den he lay off in de bushes fer to see what de news wuz
gwine ter be. En he didn't hatter wait long, nudder, kaze bimeby here
come Brer Rabbit pacin' down de road--lippity-clippity, clippity
-lippity--dez ez sassy ez a jay-bird.
Brer Fox, he lay
low. Brer Rabbit come prancin' 'long twel he spy de Tar-Baby, en den he
fotch up on his behime legs like he wuz 'stonished. De Tar Baby, she sot
dar, she did, en Brer Fox, he lay low.
"`Mawnin'!' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee - `nice wedder dis mawnin',' sezee.
"Tar-Baby ain't sayin' nuthin', en Brer Fox he lay low.
"`How duz yo' sym'tums seem ter segashuate?' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee.
"Brer Fox, he wink his eye slow, en lay low, en de Tar-Baby, she ain't sayin' nuthin'.
"'How you come on, den? Is you deaf?' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee. 'Kaze if you is, I kin holler louder,' sezee.
"Tar-Baby stay still, en Brer Fox, he lay low.
er stuck up, dat's w'at you is,' says Brer Rabbit, sezee, 'en I;m gwine
ter kyore you, dat's w'at I'm a gwine ter do,' sezee.
"Brer Fox, he sorter chuckle in his stummick, he did, but Tar-Baby ain't sayin' nothin'.
gwine ter larn you how ter talk ter 'spectubble folks ef hit's de las'
ack,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee. 'Ef you don't take off dat hat en tell me
howdy, I'm gwine ter bus' you wide open,' sezee.
"Tar-Baby stay still, en Brer Fox, he lay low.
Rabbit keep on axin' 'im, en de Tar-Baby, she keep on sayin' nothin',
twel present'y Brer Rabbit draw back wid his fis', he did, en blip he
tuck 'er side er de head. Right dar's whar he broke his merlasses jug.
His fis' stuck, en he can't pull loose. De tar hilt 'im. But Tar-Baby,
she stay still, en Brer Fox, he lay low.
"`Ef you don't
lemme loose, I'll knock you agin,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee, en wid dat
he fotch 'er a wipe wid de udder han', en dat stuck. Tar-Baby, she ain'y
sayin' nuthin', en Brer Fox, he lay low.
loose, fo' I kick de natal stuffin' outen you,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee,
but de Tar-Baby, she ain't sayin' nuthin'. She des hilt on, en de Brer
Rabbit lose de use er his feet in de same way. Brer Fox, he lay low. Den
Brer Rabbit squall out dat ef de Tar-Baby don't tu'n 'im loose he butt
'er cranksided. En den he butted, en his head got stuck. Den Brer Fox,
he sa'ntered fort', lookin' dez ez innercent ez wunner yo' mammy's
"`Howdy, Brer Rabbit,' sez Brer Fox,
sezee. `You look sorter stuck up dis mawnin',' sezee, en den he rolled
on de groun', en laft en laft twel he couldn't laff no mo'. `I speck
you'll take dinner wid me dis time, Brer Rabbit. I done laid in some
calamus root, en I ain't gwineter take no skuse,' sez Brer Fox, sezee."
Here Uncle Remus paused, and drew a two-pound yam out of the ashes.
"Did the fox eat the rabbit?" asked the little boy to whom the story had been told.
all de fur de tale goes," replied the old man. "He mout, an den agin he
moutent. Some say Judge B'ar come 'long en loosed 'im - some say he
didn't. I hear Miss Sally callin'. You better run 'long."
In recognition of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, "Civil War-Era
Memories" features excerpts from The Memphis Daily Appeal of 150 years
ago. The Appeal is publishing from Grenada, Miss.
Oct. 23, 1862
Skirmishing at Germantown. Special to the Memphis Appeal. A body of
Yankee infantry, numbering two hundred, attacked a squad of forty
Confederate cavalry at Germantown yesterday. After a short engagement
our cavalry retired. Loss trifling. RAMROD ("Ramrod" was a correspondent
for the newspaper.)
BEAUREGARD CORRESPONDENCE. Correspondence between Gen. Beauregard and
Adjt.-Gen. Cooper ... Now for the operation in Western Tennessee. ... I
would concentrate rapidly at Grand Junction ... From there I would make
a forced march to Fort Pillow, which I would take with probably only a
small loss. It is evident the forces at Memphis and Yazoo River would
then have their line of communication by the river with the North cut
off, and they would have either to surrender or cross without resources
into Arkansas, where Gen. Holmes would take good care of them. Your
obedient servant, G. T. BEAUREGARD, General C.S.A.
Oct. 24, 1862
FIFTEEN DAYS GRACE. The Memphis Bulletin of the 22nd announces that
General Sherman has postponed the execution of his outrageous
retaliatory policy of sending out 10 defenseless families from the city
for every boat fired upon on the river. The fact is heralded by the
Bulletin as an act of gracious mercy and is loud in its praise of the
Oct. 25, 1862
The President and his Body Guard. (New York Express) For some reason,
Mr. Lincoln has allowed himself to be persuaded that his life would be
endangered, if he rode about "all unarmed and alone" ... It certainly is
a regrettable precedent for a chief magistrate of this republic to
establish, in imitation of the despots of Europe, who have well founded
cause to expect attempts to assassinate them, while the President of the
United States cannot ... entertain any such reasons.
DEATH OF MEMPHIANS. A gentleman from the Perryville (Ky.) battlefield
reports … the death of two well known citizens of Memphis — Messrs. F.
M. Gailor and W. A. Seay. The former was for a long time previous to his
connection with the army associated with the city press, and resigned
the position of local editor of the Avalanche when the connection was
Oct. 28, 1862
General Forrest announces to the people and his troops ... that his
pickets are in the face of the enemy, who are completely blockaded in
their fortifications. He says he is sent to Middle Tennessee to restore
to the State its capital, and promises to do so.
Things have been really crazy around here for the last few days, and they are about to get worse. I'm closing in on the release of my newest book, "The Road to Frogmore," with all that implies: piles of promotional materials, a dedicated website to polish, a newsletter for previous customers, an internet campaign. You name it and you'll find it on my to-do list.
As part of my attempt to clear the deck, here's a final summary of what I hope you'll remember about how to work WITH Amazon to achieve what you both want -- more book sales.