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GUEST,Lighter 'Unexplained nonsense' in chanties (31) RE: 'Unexplained nonsense' in chanties 07 Feb 13

"Crow" was so used in the US (cf. "Jim Crow"), but I know of no similar use of "rook."

The OED shows that "rook" has also meant a clergyman (black clothes), a scruffy or disreputable person, and a swindler.

None of these senses impress me as relevant, partly because of the added "-ooky," partly because they look to me to be too literary for a shanty.

Your guess is as good as mine concerning the quality of the "oo" in "rooky-ooky."

What little I know of phonetics suggests the following, which someone else may be eager to correct:

If "rooky-ooky" has the vowel in "good" rather than in "food," a foreign source could have had either of those or "uh" (as in "luck") or "aw" (as in "haul" or "oo" as in "food" itself. What with various English dialect pronunciations, any of these could turn almost effortlessly into the vowel in "good." There are other possibilities (like the umlauted vowels in German).

Other source vowels (like "ee" for example) probably wouldn't change that radically unless somebodydid it deliberately - which seems unlikely to me. (But it's the annoying random factor of "anything's possible.")

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