Not mass band, not massed bands, but masked bands called MAS.
Mas bands draw a million people to Toronto every summer during the Caribana™ festival, boosting the economy by hundreds of millions of dollars, and boosting summer spirits in the city with their inventive, polychromatic floats and lively dancing. It’s the largest Caribbean festival in the world, based on the original one in Trinidad.
Mas is a Caribbean short form of masquerade. In its widest sense, mas can refer to the carnival or festival itself, then to the procession or parade, and finally, in its most focused meaning, to one of the bands themselves.
Toronto ’s Caribana™ is almost thirty years old and is solely responsible for introducing non-Caribbean Canadians to the joys of mas. A mas band is a group of people who work together to create intricate costumes, floats, and road dances. Some years at Caribana™ more than thirty-five separate mas groups take part in the parade.
Etymology of Masquerade & Mascara & Mask
Masquerade is a word borrowed into standard English from early French, which in turn picked it up from Italian mascherata, itself from an Italian word maschera which is the source of “mask” and “masque.” Music lovers will know Un Ballo in Maschera (Italian ‘A Masked Ball ’) an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi. Mascherata came into the early Sicilian dialect of Italian when Sicily was ruled by the Moors who spoke Arabic. One Arabic word for buffoon is máskharat. Its Arabic verbal root is maskara ‘to ridicule, mock’ with interesting related words like the Arabic noun mask ‘transformation, metamorphosis’ and the Arabic adjective mask ‘transformed into an animal.’ The last adjective is also used as a noun in Arabic to mean ‘freak, monster.’ Among other semantic resonances, these meanings all relate to ancient clowning rites. Professional buffoons in every culture dress up, imitate totemic animals, cavort, mock those in power, and often wear heavy comic makeup. When the Arabic word máskharat traveled farther north in Italy, it made a stop in Tuscany where it was used to name a colour, “Tuscan red” which became a favourite hue for darkening the eyelashes. That resulted in our current word for eyelash cosmetic, mascara—not so far away from the antic spirit of Caribbean mas bands brightening a summer day in Toronto, Ontario.
© 2012 copyright William Gordon Casselman
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Reviews of my Book
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A Great New Review of My Latest Book!
October 26, 2011
Welcome to the Enchanted Forest
By WB Johnston
This review is about Bill Casselman’s latest e-book about words: Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik: A Word Lover’s Guide to the Weirdest, Wackiest, and Wonkiest Lexical Gems (Kindle Edition)
“Wade Davis, lately of National Geographic, once described each living language as “an old-growth forest of the human spirit.” Once you decide to enter the kleptomaniacal woods of our mother tongue, what you need is more than a tour guide. This is no Disney-fied ‘keep-your-hands-inside-the-car-at all-times’, point A to point B, clear-cutting mining of language. You, here, are in the hands of Sir William of Cassel, a genuine shaman modestly posing as a simple lover of words.
Leave it on your desk at work and trust that someone will riffle through it when you are out at lunch. Shamans are magicians of the highest order. The work of their hands and hearts is game-changing. Or, hey, put it on your Kindle and just feel comforted that you can wander back out into the forest with Bill even in the middle of a boring lecture.
(Casselman replies: Thank you so much, Dr. J., for the kudos.)
Jenni French of San Fancisco, California writes on her blog “My Corner of the Universe” for March 19, 2011:
Casselman, Bill. Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik: A World Lover’s Guide to the Weirdest, Wackiest, and Wonkiest Lexical Gems. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2010.
And the author has quite a way with words, so I have found myself rereading many sentences in this book and slowing my progress through it.
My current favorite sentence is found in a discussion of dog hybrid breed names: “What a revolting concatenation of cutesiness and smarmy nomenclatorial treacle parading under the name of canine hybrid breed names” (19).
I’m sure I’ll have another favorite sentence in a day or two.
This book is just that good and just that entertaining.”
(Author Bill Casselman replies: “Thanks, Jenni!” )
Just a reminder that this book contains my ALL-NEW word esssays, none of which are available anywhere else in print or online.
Cindy Lapeña on her blog “Creativity Unlimited” of July 19 ,2011, writes:
Posted by mimrlith in 365 Things to Look Forward to.
19. Starting a book
To a certified bibliophile like me, a.k.a. bookworm, one of the most exciting things to look forward to is to start reading a new book. In fact, sometimes the prospect of starting to read a new book is so exciting that I have to hurry to finish the book I am currently reading, just so I can start a new one.
If there’s one thing I can’t resist, it’s a book, especially if it promises to be a good one. Of course there are certain books I just won’t touch or be seen with, but at the risk of being hung by my thumbs by fans of such literature, I will not mention any genres in particular. . .
Seeing a book with a title that totally captivates me, like Where a Dobdob meets a Dikdik (yes, that is a book title!) has me so worked up, I just can’t wait to dive in. I imagine all sorts of deliciously fancifully outrageous words with a title like that. Is it obvious? I just love books on words. You won’t believe how many dictionaries I own. Or books on lexical oddities and other lexical explorations. Yes, I am a logophile of sorts. I love the new words I pick up from new books. I relish finding out the meanings of all manner of words and phrases and expressions. What could be more fun?”
(Replies author Bill Casselman: Please scroll to bottom of page or click here to link to a free seven-page preview of my new book, Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Dear Mr. Casselman,
. . . I revisited the paraprosdokian page, and have finally quit laughing again at “Casselman’s Conclusion.” You were not unkind to the “profligate prof-lets.” During my years as an acquisitions editor, in rejection letters I often quoted Prof. Moses Hadas, classicist at Columbia University, who wrote a young scholar in response to having been sent the prof-let’s first book, “Thank you for sending me your book. I will waste no time reading it.”
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