[PW] Ethiopians (was: New York Times Article About Earliest Use of Term "African-American")

John Henderson jhenderson at ithaca.edu
Mon Apr 27 13:23:08 PDT 2015

Ah, but it matters less what the King James translators were thinking than what the original word meant. It appears to be better translated as Cushite, which almost certainly referred to a person from the geographic place that in ancient of days was Kush or Cush, which despite the use of the term Ethiopian, better fits the region that includes northern Sudan and southern Egypt.  Whether or not Moses's wife, who came from Cush, was a sable-skinned woman, is a subject for different round of speculation. 

Aside: In a bedroom scene (Mae West on the inside, Fields on the outside) in <<My Little Chickadee>>, WC Fields has been quoted as saying "There's an Ethiopian in the fuel supply." Since online there are several different variations of the quote, including substituting "Ethiope" for Ethiopian, I'm not sure of the exact quote (it's missing from the Yale book), so the usage, at least as a censorship-busting euphemism, was revived in the 20th century.

John Henderson
Ithaca College Library
From: Project-Wombat <project-wombat-bounces at lists.project-wombat.org> on behalf of Marian Drabkin <mmdrabkin at att.net>
Sent: Monday, April 27, 2015 2:02 PM
To: list at project-wombat.org
Subject: Re: [PW] Ethiopians (was: New York Times Article About Earliest Use    of Term "African-American")

Jeremiah 13:23.  "can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?"
Unlikely that the translators of the King James Version were thinking of a specific country here. More likely they intended "Ethiopian" to refer to
Black Africans in general.


Sent from my iPhone

> On Apr 23, 2015, at 11:40 PM, "T.F. Mills" <phasco at earthlink.net> wrote:
> A footnote to Fred's discovery of the earliest known use of the term "African-American" going
> back to 1782.
> Another term then synonymous with Negro was "Ethiopian."  The etymology goes back to the
> ancient Greeks who used it this way.  The OED offers several examples of this usage.
> Although the ancient world's contact with subsaharan Africa was largely through the Nile valley
> into the country we now call Ethiopia, that country was predominantly known through the 19th
> century as Abyssinia.
> The Bible refers to Philip evangelizing an "Ethiopian" (Acts 8), but the context is also clear that
> this man was a treasury official "of the Kandake (which means 'queen of the Ethiopians')."
> That means Kingdom of Kush, which is the modern Sudan/Ethiopia region.  At least one
> ancient dynasty of Egypt came from this region.  We now call them the "black pharaohs."
> In 1775 the Earl of Dunmore as last royal Governor of Virginia issued a proclamation promising
> freedom to slaves of American rebels if they would fight with the British.  Tens of thousands of
> slaves fled their masters throughout the colonies, seriously disrupting the economy of the
> south.  Dunmore was able to instantly form a battalion known as the "Ethiopian Regiment" (in
> which there was doubtless not a single Abyssinian.)  At the end of the war, the British
> evacuated some 5000 African-American loyalists to Nova Scotia.  (For context, it is worth
> noting that Britain had abolished slavery at home but not in its colonies before the American
> Revolution - 1772.)
> T.F. Mills
> (Colorado, USA)
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