Friday, September 4, 2015

Cholo not coined by Melville

"Amancaes' Fete"
Chapter on Peru in Wilkes's  Narrative of the U. S. Exploring Expedition
The recent birthday tribute by Angela Tung at Wordnik offers ten lexical treats, introduced if not invented by Herman Melville:
  1. ballyhoo of blazes
  2. cetology
  3. cholo
  4. curio
  5. cetology
  6. nightlife
  7. plum-puddinger
  8. slobgollion
  9. snivelization
  10. whiffy
Minor correction (our specialty, eh?): Melville's reference in Moby-Dick is not really the first recorded use in English of Cholo, meaning “an Indian or mixed-race person of Latin America.” Earlier usages of the word Cholo appear in one of Melville's known sources, the first volume of Charles Wilkes's Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition. From the chapter on Peru in 1839:
There are three classes of inhabitants, viz.: whites, Indians, and negroes. The union of the two first produces the cholo, of the two last, the zambo, and of the first and last, the mulatto. The Spaniards, or whites, are a tall race, particularly the females. They have brown complexions, but occasionally a brilliant colour, black hair and eyes. Some of them are extremely beautiful. The cholos are shorter, but well made, and have particularly small feet and hands. All classes of people are addicted to the smoking of cigars, even in carriages and at the dinner-table. It does not seem to be considered by any one as unpleasant, and foreigners have adopted the custom.
The cholo women partake of the dark brown skin of the Indian, have low figures, short round faces, high cheek bones, good teeth, and small hands and feet. Their whole figure is robust in the extreme.
... The cholo women, who ride astride, are remarkably good horsewomen, and extremely expert in managing their horses. Their dress is peculiar: a large broad-brimmed hat, with flowing ribands of gay colours, short spencer or jacket of silk, a gaudy calico or painted muslin skirt, silk stockings, blue, pink, or white satin shoes, and over the whole is sometimes worn a white poncho. Large wooden stirrups, ornamented with silver, numerous pillions, a saddle-cloth, and richly ornamented bridle, all decked with amancaes, form the caparison of the steeds. 
 --Wilkes's Narrative, vol. 1
Coincidentally, John Gretchko was just reminding us about the influence of Wilkes's Narrative on Moby-Dick. A few years after Moby-Dick, Melville made a Cholo woman named Hunilla the hero of his "Sketch Eighth" in The Encantadas, Norfolk Isle and the Chola Widow. The story of Hunilla was first published in the April 1854 issue of Putnam's Monthly Magazine (mis-numbered there as "Sketch Ninth").

Not that Wilkes is the first to mention Cholos, either. A substantial treatment in English translation was available by 1819, the year of Melville's birth. In Letters on the United Provinces of South America, Don Vicente Pazos wrote a lengthy description of Cholos in Letter 13 to Henry Clay--translated by Platt H. Crosby in the 1819 London edition of Pazos' Letters.

Cholo is Peruvian for "dog," according to the 1835 Progressive Dictionary by Samuel Fallows:
CHOLO. Cho lo (kolo), n. [Peruvian, a dog.] A name given in Peru, to a person of mixed descent; particularly a term of contempt applied to cross-bred natives as mulattoes and the like.
Melville animates the lexical or etymological association of Cholo and dog in the sad scene near the end of the Norfolk isle sketch. Having buried and long mourned her drowned husband, the abandoned Hunilla finally gets rescued but has to leave behind eight of her ten dogs:
... the dogs could not well leap into the little craft. But their busy paws hard scraped the prow, as it had been some farmer's door shutting them out from shelter in a winter storm. A clamorous agony of alarm. They did not howl, or whine; they all but spoke. 
"Push off! Give way!" cried the mate. The boat gave one heavy drag and lurch, and next moment shot swiftly from the beach, turned on her heel, and sped. The dogs ran howling along the water's marge, now pausing to gaze at the flying boat, then motioning as if to leap in chase, but mysteriously withheld themselves, and again ran howling along the beach. Had they been human beings, hardly would they have more vividly inspired the sense of desolation.  
--The Encantadas, or Enchanted Isles Sketch Ninth [Eighth] in Putnam's magazine for April 1854, page 355.

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