Sunday, February 8, 2009

gumbo etymology

wow. what a dense, rich word: coming from the bantu language group (c. africa) by way of french around 1800, it originally meant simply, "okra," then the thick stew made with okra, then a french creole language, then a silty, sticky soil. how cool is that. a glance at the history of the word and dish shows why delta louisiana is one of the few parts of the US which is not predominantly anglo-saxon in its dominant and foundational culture. i copy a couple of definitions below.

Having originated in New Orleans, Louisiana, created by the French, but enhanced by additions from other cultures, gumbo is the result of the melting of cultures in Louisianan history. For example, the dish itself is based on the French soup bouillabaisse, along with the "Holy Trinity," which is of Spanish origin and the use of filé powder (ground sassafras leaves) which is Native American. But the dish got its name from the French interpretation of the West African vegetable okra. Currently, the dish is very common in Louisiana, Southeast Texas, southern Mississippi and Alabama, and the Lowcountry around Charleston, South Carolina, near Brunswick, Georgia and among native Louisianians throughout the country. It is eaten year-round, but is usually prepared during the colder months.

1795–1805, Americanism; < LaF gombo, gumbo < a Bantu language; cf. Umbundu ochinggombo, Luba chinggombo okra

Chiefly Southern U.S. See okra. See Regional Note at goober.
A soup or stew thickened with okra pods. Also called okra.
Chiefly Mississippi Valley & Western U.S. A fine silty soil, common in the southern and western United States, that forms an unusually sticky mud when wet.
Gumbo A French patois spoken by some Black people and Creoles in Louisiana and the French West Indies.

[Louisiana French gombo, of Bantu origin; akin to Tshiluba ki-ngumbo, okra.]

No comments: