anyone here from Jamaica knows what a yange or yenge woman is?
July 14, 2020 4:45 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone know what it means or can point me to the song or to a way to improve my search? This phrase is in what I've been told is one of the oldest known Jamaican folk songs. I've not been able to find mention anywhere online of either phrase or song. I Googled, did a word search through Jekyll's Jamaican Song & Story, checked youtube, listened to folk compilations, checked google translate for Yoruba, Hausa, Akan (and Twi) and Swahili looking for a possible origin word. Google doesn't even know the word in either version.

Could have a Maroon connection.
posted by glasseyes to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Possibly an obeah reference?
posted by orrnyereg at 6:10 AM on July 14, 2020

What's the song?
posted by goatdog at 6:40 AM on July 14, 2020

From A dictionary of Jamaican English, University of the West Indies, 2002:

YANGA /yángga/ vb dial; prob related to NYANGA; cf CB *-yáng-, dance about in joy, Ko -yangalala, be happy; perh infl by Amer Sp yanga, uncontrolled, carelessly done. To move (in dancing or in walking) in a shaking or swaying manner that is 'stylish ' or provocative.

1925 Beckwith 81, Man da yawn, man da yonga!.. 'Yonga' is a dance in which 'the body is shaken in all directions'. 1943 GL Clar, Yanga, walk and stumble; Han, Yanga, swaying walk of women; Kgn, Yanga, a stylish way of stepping by women characterized by swinging of the arms, and swaying of the head. 1950 Pioneer 41, See yah de music sweet yuh se'! All de fowl dem start fe yanga an merenge roun' de room. 1955 FGC Man /yangga/ way of walking, step quite cute. G

posted by zamboni at 6:41 AM on July 14, 2020 [9 favorites]

What's the song?
I've not been able to find mention anywhere online of either phrase or song.
posted by zamboni at 6:43 AM on July 14, 2020

Wow zamboni that is amazing, thank you. I'm sure that's it. What's even more amazing is I know the Nigerian pidgin phrases nyanga, making yanga, (sassy walk, showing off) and I didn't even think to put the two together because my pidgin is contemporary and it had been implied the song is about 300 yrs old. Cheers!
posted by glasseyes at 6:54 AM on July 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

The usage is a little different in Nigeria because if you say someone is making yanga the implication is they should stop
posted by glasseyes at 6:56 AM on July 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have to thank you again zamboni, for pointing me at Green's dictionary of slang. It finds the first written reference to yanga as J. Speirs Proverbs of British Guiana 38: Yanga gal full ob motions in 1902. The West African refs date from the 50's so it probably crossed over from the Caribbean by way of popular music. That means the term I grew up with, pronounced nasally and with disapproval - hence nyanga - was in fact fairly new at the time. And delightfully, the word has morphed into nang in London English where it has no derogatory connotation.

I'm not a scholar but I love finding out this stuff. What language the original was remains unclear though. Mende is quoted but I should think yanga means approx the same thing all over West Africa by now.
posted by glasseyes at 7:39 AM on July 14, 2020 [14 favorites]

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