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#3507: DeGraff on the linguistics of "mambo" and of "Mambo Sans Bout..."... (fwd)


It is not without apprehension that I will approach the world of linguistic 
which has always been totally abstruse to me! 

I agree with Michel on the spelling of the word Manbo in creole for the 
simple reason that Manbo like manba (peatnut butter) are not pronounced with 
an m before the b. It is different from the mambo of Perez Prado which is a 
dance coming from Latin America. It looks to me that the m was maintained to 
signal the difference of origin. Often, foreigners have difficulties to catch 
that subtleties of pronunciation!

>From my own research on the origin of the name Manbo, I believe that it comes 
from two words:
Man for Manman in Haiti, Man being often said for mother in Africa.
Gbo which means "active magical force" in the Fon language spoken mainly in 
Togo and Benin.

In creole, we do not pronounce the "g" which in Africa, is a special 
"claquante". That sound smothered seems to have disappeared  in creole.  I 
noticed that a few years ago at the market, for instance, I was called Man 
Bébé, today I am more often called Manbo. This to say that the "bo" (for 
"gbo") seems to have replaced my own name.

The same word "gbo" is found in the names given to Hougans, often 
misunderstood by non creole speakers as "bon". For instance, one may speak of 
André Pierre Bon Hougan, but André Pierre himself pronounces: "Bo Hougan", 
not bon Hougan and he refers to Gbo Hougan.

I wonder why the name of Houbonne which was extensively used at the beginning 
of the 20th century and the pronunciation of the "g" felt in desuetude. I 
think the name "houbonne" or "hougbonne" was closer to the original name of 
the priests in Benin and Togo which is Hougbonou.

In a Vodou ceremony, one of the first calling song for the unification of the 
magical forces of the Rada Lwas says: "(Se pa mwen sel o ki pou sévi Lwa yo) 
Gbo Rada yo sanblé..." . Here again the g is not pronounced. Furthermore, the 
real name of the Lwa Papa Lisa (magical fecoundating force of the Sun) is 
Segbo Lisa and it is also confused by some as sé bon Lisa ! and there are 
many more examples.