hoodoo: the rock

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hoodoo: the rock

Post by Shelley » Fri Sep 09, 2005 3:11 pm

An interesting word encountered in recent travels is "hoodoo", a spire-like rock formation found in Utah's Bryce Canyon. I always thought of hoodoo as an alternate for voodoo, and that's (sort of) confirmed in a WW search. So, are the hoodoos made of rock so named because they're weird, unearthly, ghostly and magical? Of course, I forgot to ask the Park Ranger.
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hoodoo: the rock

Post by Bobinwales » Fri Sep 09, 2005 4:11 pm

Interesting Shelly, I didn’t actually realise that Hoodoo was synonymous with Voodoo; I thought it just meant bad luck. I just had a quick look at some dictionaries, and although the American editions carry the definition, “oddly-shaped rock column: in the western United States and Canada, a column of rock that has been weathered into a strange shape”, that one came from Encarta, there doesn’t seem to be any mention in the UK versions.
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hoodoo: the rock

Post by russcable » Fri Sep 09, 2005 4:26 pm

Ironically, the park's "Plan your visit" page tells you to ask the park range "Where we got the name hoodoo?" - so you didn't plan your trip sufficiently.

"Hey, you remind me of a man. What man? The man with the power. What power? The power of hoodoo. Hoodoo? You do. Do what? Remind me of a man. What man? The man with the power..." Cary Grant and Shirley Temple in "The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer"

Possibly if they're too complex to be natural, then "hoo doo" make them?
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hoodoo: the rock

Post by Shelley » Fri Sep 09, 2005 5:29 pm

Well, Russcable, I PLANNED to ask the Park Ranger, but as I said, I forgot, darn it. The sight of the hoodoos blew the question right out of my mind. I'm completely out of practise of looking things up for myself . . . Re-entry has been difficult.
Possibly if they're too complex to be natural, then "hoo doo" make them?
One might even ask: Is that the hoodoo that (Y)ou do so well?
Actually, somebody explained that all this bizarre stuff happened under water -- the Grand Canyon was carved by a (relative) trickle. No wonder H2O isn't included in the game of rock, paper and scissors. It would win every time.
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hoodoo: the rock

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Mon Sep 12, 2005 9:20 am

The later sculpting would be done partly by freeze-thaw action, partly by rain-spray, and in some cases partly by sand-blasting, Shelley. There are some fine photographs of hoodoos in Goblin Valley on display at "www.art-landscape.com".
Similar grotesques (and more prosaic formations) carved by water- and wind-erosion in dried-up riverbeds and deserts are called "yardangs", but how synonymous the terms are is probably yet another area of academic argument.
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hoodoo: the rock

Post by Shelley » Tue Sep 13, 2005 1:57 am

Wow, thanks, Edwin Ashworth, for directing me to that beautiful collection of photos! Happy to say I saw a few of those spots on my trip. I really like that word, "yardang" -- it's as fun to say as "hoodoo".
We saw some really good examples of "freeze-thaw" action going up Pike's Peak (Rockies). I think the guide called it "frost wedging", and it turns out that's how the cliffs were formed wherein the famous "cliff-dwelling", pueblo tribes lived. Unless I've completely got it wrong . . .
What a country.
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hoodoo: the rock

Post by spiritus » Wed Sep 21, 2005 5:19 am

Shelley wrote: An interesting word encountered in recent travels is "hoodoo", a spire-like rock formation found in Utah's Bryce Canyon. I always thought of hoodoo as an alternate for voodoo, and that's (sort of) confirmed in a WW search. So, are the hoodoos made of rock so named because they're weird, unearthly, ghostly and magical? Of course, I forgot to ask the Park Ranger.
Who knew hoodoo ain't from voodoo?
Apparently, Bobinwales do.
Bobinwales wrote: Interesting Shelly, I didn’t actually realise that Hoodoo was synonymous with Voodoo; I thought it just meant bad luck. I just had a quick look at some dictionaries, and although the American editions carry the definition, “oddly-shaped rock column: in the western United States and Canada, a column of rock that has been weathered into a strange shape”, that one came from Encarta, there doesn’t seem to be any mention in the UK versions.
Bill Cassellman, a Canadian broadcaster, journalist and writer on liguistics tells us:

"The term hoodoo is general across the west of North America, Canada, and even Australia and is not of American, Australian or Canadian origin. French Canadian voyageurs dubbed these odd rock formations demoiselles or 'young ladies.' The Dictionary of Canadianisms (1967) states that hoodoo is 'of African origin, related to voodoo.'

No, it is not. They just copied the tired old origin, without once checking the modern etymological literature (abundant) on borrowings into English from various African languages.

In contrast, The Merriam-Webster Dictionaries, the authorative compendium of American English, accepts and bases its definition of "hoodoo" upon the fresh, lively, and creative research that has been done in American universities in black studies programs. Of particular note is the research on English word etymologies derived from African languages by scholars of African American Studies programs."

The major and most reliable research in this area has been done in the African Studies departments at Temple, Yale, and Havard Universities.

Those sources tell us:

"Hoodoo is not related etymologically as a word to voodoo. There is a thin strand of semantic connection only. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, black slaves of Hausa origin brought with them to their enslavement in the American south a distinct magic practice called "hoodoo." The word comes directly from the Hausa language where the verb hu'du'ba means 'to arouse resentment, produce retribution.' Voodoo is a different word and quite a different concept. The word voodoo comes from another African language called Ewe where vodu is the name of a specific principle of nature or tutelary deity. Voodoo passed into American English by way of Louisiana Creole voudou. Very early in America, hoodoo came to mean 'jinx' or 'cast a spell on' as a noun and a verb: 'Something hoodooed me out in the swamp last night. I think it was my ex-husband.'"

I don't know which dictionaries are referenced by Utah's Park Rangers, but the Oxford Dictionary still thinks the word hoodoo is a mere alternate of the word voodoo, even in the face of current research that updates the African linguistic evidence.
hoodoo

• noun 1 voodoo. 2 a run or cause of bad luck.

• verb (hoodoos, hoodooed) bring bad luck to.

— ORIGIN originally an alternative US word for VOODOO.


Oxford English Dictionary

The Oxford Dictionary people in Britain have always been loath to adopt word origins based on American or European linguistic spade work. I've never been able to discover why, unless it is simple British academic disdain for every non-British linguistic endeavour on earth. Consider these submissions .

I suspect most of the "hoodoo as an alternate for voodoo" definitions, "(sort of) confirmed in a WW search", may be the lazy passing-on and picking-up of this flabby etymology of hoodoo. Cases in point are the following:
hoo·doo (hd)
n. pl. hoo·doos
1.
a. Magic healing and control, especially in African-based folk medicine in the United States and the Caribbean. Also called conjure.
b. A practitioner of hoodoo.
2. Voodoo.
3.
a. Bad luck.
b. One that brings bad luck.
4. Geology A column of eccentrically shaped rock, produced by differential weathering.
tr.v. hoo·dooed, hoo·doo·ing, hoo·doos
1. To practice hoodoo on; affect with a charm or curse.
2. To bring bad luck to.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Of West African origin, possibly from voodoo.]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company
The Wikipedia's definition of hoodoo, is to my thinking, a stunningly singular example of what gives online dictionaries/encyclopedias a bad name. It does not define "hoodoo", but the definition supplied is highly suggestive of what it means to "fool you". By throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the etymological cauldron, apparently the authors believe the reader will be hoodooed into believing this constitutes a comprehensive reference:
Hoodoo and Voodoo: as applied to the branches of a West African ancestor-based Theist-Animist religious tradition. Its primary roots are among the Fon-Ewe peoples of West Africa, in the country now known as Benin (formerly the Kingdom of Dahomey), where Vodun is today the national religion of more than 7 million people.

The word vodun is the Fon-Ewe word for spirit...the latter(Voodoo) probably influencing the former(Hoodoo), and the terms may have a common etymology...

Though it (hoodoo) drew significantly from Native American folklore, especially the use of herbs and folk practices...(which)found their way into Hoodoo.

...If Voodoo is an established religion. Hoodoo is the magic without the religion...
Santeria, ( the Cuban, Dominican, and Brazilian version of Voodoo ) Italics mine., which is said to be influenced by Catholicism... then Hoodoo has been influenced by Protestantism...


Most adherents have been black, but whites and Native Americans also used Hoodoo...


The artificial ingredients in that lexicographical stew are deserving of their separate analysis and subsequent dismissals.

As for those dictionaries and their minions that hoodoo you:

"The Oxford English Dictionary retains an abundance of the clichés of Victorian "philology" upon which it was founded.
We now know that when different cultures and languages mingle and must communicate, word-borrowing is bi-directional. English-speaking fur trappers acquired the word from Africans. The fur-trappers' trade and travels often brought them into contact with those enslaved Africans who worked the docks and ports of early America's rivers and coasts. American aboriginal peoples of the northwest picked up the word hoodoo from the trappers and, like them, used hoodoo to refer to any malignant creature or evil supernatural force. That's how it came to be applied to the curious columns of earth or rock. For they were thought to be evil in the mythologies of many first peoples. But, borrowing works in the other direction as well. For example, in Siksika (Blackfoot) mythology, the strange hoodooesque shapes were giants whom the Great Spirit had turned to stone because of their evil deeds. Deep in the night, the petrified giants could awaken and throw boulders down upon any humans passing nearby. European newcomers to what would become the Canadian and American west heard aboriginal peoples' description of these strange formations and translated certain Siksika words and terms from several Siouan languages like Dakota and Lakota and used the word hoodoo as the translation. In some cases the English word displaced the Siouan word. In other cases the Siouan word remained."

http://www.billcasselman.com/casselmania/hoodoo.htm

As Bobinwales' Encarta source aludes; we do find the hoodoo throughout the northwestern United States and a concentration of these formations in the badlands of Alberta Canada.

Geologically speaking; hoodoos are oddly-shaped pedestals of earth or pillars of rock that develop through erosion by wind and water, especially in areas where the sedimentary layers alternate between soft and hard material, for example in horizontal strata of shale and sandstone. Typically a column of stone is created when a hard shale cap-rock on top protects softer underlying sandstone from erosion.
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hoodoo: the rock

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Sep 21, 2005 9:12 am

That's a very interesting and salutary corrective to the misperception of a common origin for those two words, Spiritus. The only thing you have left out in your account is the original source of most of your description, which I take to be http://www.billcasselman.com/casselmania/hoodoo.htm .
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hoodoo: the rock

Post by Phil White » Wed Sep 21, 2005 10:31 am

The point made about the OED and dictionaries in general is also crucial. Many, if not all, build on the work of predecessors, and once an error creeps in, it often gets handed down from generation to generation and across the borders of the publishing houses.

Perhaps it is up to us and people like us to play our part and inform the publishing houses where we or others have detected inaccuracies.

Thanks for the interesting background. I have to say that the word "hoodoo" was previously completely unknown to me.
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hoodoo: the rock

Post by russcable » Thu Sep 22, 2005 5:10 am

While reading a novel, I just stumbled on the following said by an English military officer in 1890's India/Pakistan (italics are in the book):
If it's jadoo, I'd like to know the secret of the magic.
Hobson Jobson says:
JADOO, s. Hind. from Pers. jadu, Skt. yatu; conjuring, magic, hocuspocus.
Interesting coincidence?
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hoodoo: the rock

Post by spiritus » Thu Sep 22, 2005 6:01 am

Erik_Kowal wrote: That's a very interesting and salutary corrective to the misperception of a common origin for those two words, Spiritus. The only thing you have left out in your account is the original source of most of your description, which I take to be http://www.billcasselman.com/casselmania/hoodoo.htm .

Yeah, you could say my omissions sorta make evident how that "borrowing and passing on" thing really occurs.
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hoodoo: the rock

Post by spiritus » Thu Sep 22, 2005 11:31 am

While admiring my paper back copy of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2004 abridged edition, I deliberately looked up the following:
ya·hoo Pronunciation: 'yA-(")hü, 'yä-Function: noun Inflected Form(s): plural yahoos 1 capitalized : a member of a race of brutes in Swift's Gulliver's Travels who have the form and all the vices of humans
2 : a boorish, crass, or stupid person
- ya·hoo·ism /-"
Interesting coincidence?
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hoodoo: the rock

Post by russcable » Thu Sep 22, 2005 2:09 pm

No, that's not an interesting coincidence since yahoo doesn't have anything to do with magic where voodoo, hoodoo, and jadoo do.
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hoodoo: the rock

Post by dalehileman » Thu Sep 22, 2005 4:43 pm

Judging from my experience attempting communication with acquaintances who use Yahoo for email, I would say it does have to do with a sort of malevolent magic

Thus the organization is well named
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Re: hoodoo: the rock

Post by StAugWords » Sun Jun 11, 2017 2:09 pm

Shelley,
I have visited Bryce Canyon and did ask the park ranger what a hoodoo is. According to Paiute Indians, who inhabited that area for hundreds of years before European Americans arrived, the hoodoos are "Ancient Peoples" who were turned to stone as punishment for bad deeds.
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End of topic.
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