My Mission

Robert Sale-Hill’s poem, The True Origin and History of “The Dude” (The New York World, January 14, 1883) introduced the world to the word Dude, and kicked off a full-on Dude craze. A-Dude-a-Day[i] Blog is dedicated to preserving and sharing pics, pieces and poems from the early days of the Dude-craze of 1883. You can read more about the history and origin of the word Dude on my blogpost, "Dudes, Dodos and Fopdoodles" on my other blog, Early Sports 'n' Pop-Culture History Blog.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Dude #37 - Dude - from the Swahili? Swa - what???

In May of 1885, about two years after the word "Dude" first mysteriously appeared on the scene, the ad-men at Rogers, Peet & Co., proffered a purported etymology for the word.  It came, they said, from Swahili.  

As evidence, they cite the Rev. Dr. G. W. Hervey, who found the answer in the Handbook of the Swahili Language (as Spoken at Zanzibar), by Edward Steere, LL.D., Missionary Bishop for Central Africa.  With so many titles, abbreviations and initials, both academic and religious - who could doubt it?

Or was it just a joke?  

Of course it was just a joke.  

But that does not mean that it was not based, in part, on some realities.  The Rev. Dr. G. W. Hervey was an actual Baptist minister, and prolific religious writer.  Edward Steere was a missionary to Africa and wrote a handbook of Swahili.  The handbook actually does list the word, "dude" (pronounced doo-day), plural, "madude," meaning, "a what-is-it? A thing of which you don't know or have forgotten the name."

And, Robert Sale-Hill, who first introduced the word, "dude," in early 1883, claimed (years later) to have had, "over a year’s experience in some of the wildest country in Africa . . . ." Outing, Volume 26, Number 6, September 1895.


The Sun (New York), May 27, 1885.

The Dude an African.  Evidently the Early Missionaries to Africa were considered Dudes, and our sketch suggests a possible scene as novel to the natives as it was uncomfortablt to the missionary.

We hope eventually to help supply all Africa with thin clothes.  At present, however, our mission is to clothe Americans, especially New Yorkers.  We keep literally everything worn by the male sex, and for a very small consideration, will supply your complete outfit, men's spring suits, $10 to $35; youths' suits, $7.50 to $30; boys' suits, $3.50 to $22.  Furnishing goods at attractive prices; shoes and hats, ditto.

Rogers, Peet & Co., 
Clothes, Hats and Shoes,
569-575 Broadway.
Opposite Metropolitan Hotel.

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