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an illustration of a wolf attacking
 

 

woof. (verb) To threaten, perhaps a bluff, or perhaps not.reference 1

Geneva Smitherman believes that the term arises from the traditional African American pronunciation of the word “wolf.” Wolves are, of course, threatening creatures. However, it seems almost as likely that this is onomatopoeia for the sound a dog makes when it barks. Given the ambiguous nature of the threat, as Smitherman describes it, the bark of a dog seems a more apt reference since sometimes a dog's bark really is worse than its bite.

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figure 2
A woofer is one who woofs, and is also the part of a speaker that produces low-frequency sounds (the bass).

1. Smitherman, Geneva. 1994. Black Talk: Words and Phrases from the Hood to the Amen Corner. Boston: Houghton MIfflin. 239-40.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About the illustrations: The Wolf from Hilde Miloche and Wilma Kane's Little Red Riding Hood.reference 2 The Wolf is not only threatening, but certifiably dangerous, eating Red's grandmother before the tale is over. Here the Wolf threatens Red Riding Hood on the path. Dogs, on the other hand, are less predictably violent. © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation.

Figure 2 shows a speaker system, the larger one is the woofer. © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation.

2. Miloche, Hilda. 1951. Little Red Riding Hood. New York: Simon and Schuster.
see also: woof ticket
cf: beware of the dog; bark, bark like a dog
Last updated: April 2, 2008
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