Wednesday, January 17, 2007

State symbols

I've been so darned busy today that I only now am getting around to giving a link to Wisconsin's official state symbols, here. The muskie is only one of many! I've always been partial to the idea of the polka as a state dance.


Stumblerette said...

The linked website says that the choice of the Polka is "Reflecting the rich German heritage found throughout the state". I find that rather odd, considering that, according to the Duden (standard German dictionary) as well as the OED, the dance was invented in Prague and named in commemoration of the Polish uprising in 1831.

I couldn't quite figure out where the expression "polka dot" comes from. The OED links it to the dance, but the first entry, dating from 1857, doesn't really make that connection ("Scarf of muslin, for light summer wear..surrounded by a scalloped edge, embroidered in rows of round polka dots.")

Mr. Verb said...

Excellent point ... the belief that polka is somehow German is widespread in the state, when in fact one of the things that makes it an excellent state dance of course is that it was shared among a lot of early immigrant groups to the state -- Slavic, Scandinavian, and so on.

As the Wisconsin Englishes Project folks have pointed out in their presentations and interviews, it's much like 'final devoicing' (roughly, saying 'bik' for 'big' or 'hiss' for 'his'): It's heavily associated with German in the state and was something German immigrants had, but it has also come to the state with a whole range of other immigrant groups. In koineization (when a lot of dialects come together and a 'leveled out' one emerges), features shared among many of the input varieties are particularly likely to survive. The polka looks like a cultural parallel to that linguistic tendency.

But 'polka dot' ... I'd never thought about that one.