Blog

Saturday, 13 June 2015 01:21

Historical Reference - language and meaning then and now

Written by Deborah Tyrell
Rate this item
(0 votes)
Growing up Trinidadian I've often heard my mother use words that are of another language within her English sentences. I recently had reason to ask her about the word Hottotoe - my spelling based on her pronunciation - as I heard the term Hottentot Venus for the first time. My Mother said when they used the word it described something that there was a lot of. I found it interesting since the Hottentot Venus, a circus act in the early 1800's, was an African woman with a very large 'bottom'.


Hottentot as it was used then, was a Dutch word, derogatory in reference. When my mother said 'hottotoe' she too used it in a manner to suggest that the abundance of the thing was derogatory, excessive almost to the point of obscenity. My mother grew up in the shadows of the Depression, when abundance meant not having more than you could use, and even then sharing it with others. Excessive anything certainly would have seemed obscene.

I'm saddened by the story of the Hottentot Venus, who upon dying in 1815 wasn't buried, but instead sold so her body could be casted for a statue, and her genitals removed and preserved for public display. The obscenity of abundance indeed.

This past week I was searching for online images of Moko Jumbies, a local character in Caribbean Cultural activities, and came across an artist by the name David 'Moko Jumbie' James whose image is shown above. A tribute perhaps to the Hottentot Venus?
Read 1827 times Last modified on Saturday, 13 June 2015 01:28

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.