[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

#4067: DeGraff on the history of "Voodoo Science", etc. (fwd)

From: Michel DeGraff <degraff@MIT.EDU>

Simidor writes:

> George Bush a decade ago brought "Voodoo economics" to the world; now it's 
> "Voodoo science" courtesy of Oxford University Press.  Vodou, Haiti's 
> contribution to the world, stands for everything that's bogus, absurd, 
> cultish or silly.  In comparison, "Catholic" or "Kosher" points firmly to 
> what's orthodox, trustworthy and good.  Nothing apologetic about it.  Vodou 
> is singled out for mockery; Haiti's deplorable conditions are an added 
> comedic element.

This debasement of Creole culture started way back, at the very onset of
post-Columbus Caribbean history, with the help of colonizers, missionaries,
historians, linguists, philosophers, etc.  And after our African and Creole
freedom-fighter ancestors won their liberty, most everything about them had
to be demonized, including their religion.  As of the Creole language, it
too had to be ranked as inferior: non-Europeans were, of course, lesser
human beings, and they had to `civilized' via colonization and slavery.
And their speech too was considered lesser, whether African or Creole.
Have things changed since, in Haiti and abroad?  Well... Many (including
some educated Creole speakers and aficionados) still seem to believe that
Creole is a lesser language, one that needs no orthography, one that lacks
the required complexity to express elevated thoughts, etc. --- the sort of
language that anyone can become an expert in with little effort.

As of the semantics of "voodoo", history has now made it into dictionaries:
Reagan, Bush and Parks are not alone to be blame.  Here are some relevant
entries in the Webster:

1. voo.doo \'vu:d-(.)u:\ n [LaF voudou, of African origin; akin to Ewe
   vo1du3A tutelary deity, demon 1: VOODOOISM 2a: one who deals in spells
   and necromancy 2b1: a sorcerer's spell 2b2: a hexed object - voodoo aj
2. voodoo vt : to bewitch by or as if by means of voodoo : HEX

be.witch \bi-'wich\ \-(*-)re-\ vt 1a: to influence or affect esp.
   injuriously by witchcraft 1b: to cast a spell over 2: CHARM, FASCINATE :
   to act in a way that bewitches - be.witch.ery n

witch.craft \'wich-.kraft\ n 1a: the use of sorcery or magic 1b:
   intercourse with the devil or with a familiar 2: an irresistible
   influence or fascination : ENCHANTMENT

The history of words is also history, and so is the history of how people
use (and write!) words...

MIT Linguistics & Philosophy, 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge MA 02139-4307
degraff@MIT.EDU        http://web.mit.edu/linguistics/www/degraff.home.html