A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

The Etymology of Hateration

“Don’t need no hateration, holleration / in this dancerie”

I don’t know about you, but there was quite a bit of speculation, imitation, derivation in my kitcherie when Mary J. Blige came out with “Family Affair” back in 2001. I definitely remember telling incoming roosters that we didn’t allow hateraters at this sanctuary, and I’m pretty sure I drove Miriam halfway around the bend by adding “-ation” to random verbs and “-ery” to terminal nouns in the midst of otherwise unremarkable conversations.

All credit to Mary J. Blige, I argued, for audacity. Considering the spectrum of wordplay from bebop to hip hop, those coinages didn’t seem especially clever at first listen. But, the heavy-handed forced rhyme and alliteration of “hateration” and “holleration”–hit hard right on the beat–did capture the ugliness of the hating and hollering Mary J. was deriding. And then the flippancy of “dancerie” (as I imagined it was spelled) did seem the perfect antidote to mean-minded stomping in the first line of the couplet.

So, you know, it was poetry.

So, imagine my delight last week when, midway through a 1974 anthology of Caribbean literature, I happened upon this poem, written by Louise Bennett to mark the 1961 withdrawal of Jamaica from the Federation of the West Indies (which led to the collapse of that federation):

Dear Departed Federation

Dear Departed Federation
Referendum muderation
Bounce you eena outa space
Hope you fine a restin place.
Is a heavy blow we gi yuh
An we know de fault noh fe yuh
For we see you operate
Over continent an state.
But de heap a boderation
In a fe we lickle nation
From de start a yuh duration
Meck we frighten an frustrate.
A no tief meck yuh departed
A no lie meck yuh departed
But a Fearful meck we Careful
How we let yuh tru we gate.
Fearful bout de big confusion
Bout de final constitution
An Jamaica contribution
All we spirit aggrivate.
An we memba self-protection
All we ears of preparation!
Referendum Mutilation
Quashie start to contemplate!
Beg yuh pardon Federation
Fe de sudden separation
If we sufferin’ survive
We acquaintance might revive.
Dear Departed Federation
Beg you beg dem tarra nation
Who done quarrel and unite
Pray fe po West Indies plight.

Yes! Murderation. Botheration. Both clear antecedents of “hateration” and “holleration.”  Of course, I don’t know whether Mary J. Blige ever heard or read that particular poem, but she did grow up in New York City, where plenty of West Indians live, so she may well have spent time in verbal environments where the playful creation of such coinages was common.

And notice: However playful the wording, that poem is serious. As is the call for a dancefloor free of hateration. As the subject of my previous blog post also knew, existing words aren’t always adequate to the task of saying what needs to be said. Indeed, divisive violence may be built into the words we use to slice-and-dice the world into bite-sized bits. If Audre Lorde was right and “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” then we need to feel free to create the tools we need, whether these be new words or new non-verbal strategies. Like peaceful danceries.

1 comment to The Etymology of Hateration

  • Charlotte

    I LOVED that song. Still do. :-) And as a former English teacher I get SO TIRED of people terrified their precious language will be ruined because people play around with it. What those people usually mean, of course, is that only CERTAIN people are allowed to play with language, as the reality is that language is a constantly evolving thing — otherwise it dies. In any case, thank you for this post. :-) It brightened my day.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>