Saturday, May 30, 2009

Play that Bandjeau, Earl!

Wikipedia asserts that our word "banjo" derives from an African language, or perhaps Italian. How about French? Glover Moore quotes an article from the February 15, 1820 edition of the Georgetown [District of Columbia] Metropolitan that uses a French, or pseudo-French, spelling, and associates the instrument with slaves in New Orleans and Louisiana:
That our slaves are ill-treated, no man who has ever looked around him will assert. See them in their quarters -- See them in the interior of Louisiana -- see them in the town of Orleans, assembled on the levee, after their work is done, and a sad face among a groupe of negroes will be found as rare, as courteous language in the London Courier towards this country -- the Violin and Bandjeau are ever in tune, and tripping it lightly to the air of their favorite song "Massa, Misses, kill a duck," they are more heedless of the morrow than . . . ourselves.

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