Posted by Elyse Bruce on July 12, 2010
We’ve all heard Daffy Duck or Sylvester the Cat utter the phrase, “Suffering succotash!” So where does it come from and how did it become a cartoon buzz phrase?
In 1643, Roger Williams gave “beans” as correct translation of the Narragansett word manusqussedash in his book, Key into the Language of America. He also included the Narragansett words misickquatash meaning “ear of corn” and asquutasquash fmeaning “squash.” Somehow, by putting beans, corn and squash together in a pot, and cooking these three words together, it created the dish we know as succotash, as first noted in a New England diary in 1751.
Narragansett, an Eastern Algonquin language, is now extinct. During the first two centuries of English-speaking settlement in New England, however, it flourished and contributed at least a dozen words to the English language, including tautog (1643), mummichog (1787), menhaden (1792), and scup (1848), four kinds of fish; quahog (1753), a clam; and samp (cornmeal mush, 1643), as well as papoose (1634).
In the mid-1800s, during the Victorian era, there was a rejection of all profanity and so the common people developed a wide variety of malapropisms to avoid swearing on Holy names. Soon, one could hear Cripes and Crikey replace “Christ” and Dangnabit replace “G*d damn it” and Cheese ‘n’ Rice replace “Jesus Christ.” The phrase Suffering Succotash replaced “Suffering Savior.”