More on the Etymology of Kumbaya

From the Laudator:

More on the Etymology of Kumbaya

Eric Thomson writes:

I found Michael Cervesarius’ Isidorian conjecture on the etymology of Kumbaya (LTA, May 31st) wholly convincing. Now I know why I need a drink every time I overhear the song. Johannes Goropius Becanus, of course, would argue that you could go still further back in time, Greek ‘kumbíon’ being itself merely a corrupt form of a much older and simpler lexeme. ‘Kom’ in Dutch means ‘bowl, basin’ and Dutch, as we all know and he conclusively proved, was the language of Paradise. Could Adam and Eve have been expelled from the Garden of Eden for singing (or even humming) Kumbaya? Perhaps not for that alone, but it would definitely have aggravated the original sin.

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  1. pelerin says:

    The last time I heard Kumbaya being sung was by a group of students on a ferry during a rough crossing from England to France. I was very sea-sick at the time and consequently never wish to hear it again as it brings back bad memories! I never did know what Kumbaya meant.

  2. digdigby says:

    Kumbaya is a Gullah black pronunciation of ‘Come By here’. The song is literally ‘Come By Here, Lord’ On these isolated islands off the Georgia and Carolina coasts, the former slaves actually kept African words and customs. The Gullah chants are repeated over and over to induce a sublime state that was quite a ‘Sunday Balm’ in their wretched lives. This is one of Doris Ulman’s magnificent photographs from the twenties.
    Reverence and beauty? Remember that? Anyone who calls out of his misery, sin and confusion on The Name of Jesus Christ is a brother to me. And NO I’m not ‘indifferent’.

  3. John Nolan says:

    Where do people still sing Kumbaya? It is as redolent of the 1960s as is ‘Michael Row the Boat Ashore’. If I heard it at Mass I would probably weep with nostalgia for my lost youth. Rather like hearing ‘Bring Flowers of the Rarest’ (gulp!)

  4. RichardT says:

    What I never understood is why people who object to Latin, or even to the new English translation, as being incomprehensible to ‘ordinary’ churchgoers, are yet perfectly happy for them to sing songs of African origin whose meaning is even more obscure and further from their culture.

  5. heway says:

    Digdigby, I’m with you! Remember having the large recording of the Africn Mass in which they sang ‘Kumbaya” and other songs. How many of our hymns come from the Methodist hymnal?
    Praise God in the words and language that he gave you, that is all that is asked for. And my youth was not lost – it was blessed….

  6. Tantum Ergo says:

    Eureka! I found the correct translation. Kum-by-YA! is Klingonese for “Yo Mama!”

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