Posted by Billy Jo on July 16, 2000
In Reply to: Re: Honkies & hicks & hillbillies & gringos posted by Scott Marsden on July 14, 2000
: does anyone know where this term originated? thanks. m
: "Redneck" is one of several terms referring to country folk that should be used with caution.
: My children were touring Chinatown in New York City with a school group. An elderly (and possibly inebriated) Asian-American man heard the students'
Kentucky accents and called out, "Redneck! Redneck!" The young people were amused. Others might not be amused. Calling someone a "redneck" could earn the
offender a punch in the nose. Or worse.
: The "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997) has this to say about the term:
: "REDNECK. A poor, white, often rowdy southerner, usually one from a rural area. The word, which is sometimes derogatory, has its origins in the sunburned
necks of farmers and outdoor laborers, and originally meant a poor farmer. 'A redneck is by no means to be confused with 'po' whites,' wrote Jonathan Daniels in
'A Southerner Discusses the South' (1938): 'Poor white men in the South are by no means all po' white even in the hills. Lincoln and Jackson came from a southern
folk the back of whose necks were ridged and red from labor in the sun.'"
: Last year my daughter's teacher explained to his class that "poor white" was an OK term to use in the South. It was just what certain people were called.
WRONG. I put the following information together for my child to undo that bit of miseducation.
: In "Whistlin' Dixie: A Dictionary of Southern Expressions, " (Pocket Book, 1993) Robert Hendrickson explains that "poor white" and "poor white trash" are not
neutral terms used to refer to people who are white and poor. These terms are slurs used to denigrate people who are viewed as poor, white and of low character:
: "POOR WHITE - 'In discriminating Southern speech, it (poor white) was NOT (emphasis mine) used to include all white person who were poor.The 'poor
whites' were those who were both poor and conspicuously lacking the common social virtues and especially fell short of the standard in certain economic qualities.'
(W.T. Couch, 'Culture in the South,' 1941) An old black Southern rhyme goes:
: My name is Sam,
: I don't give a damn.
: I'd ruther be black
: Than a poor white man.
: POOR WHITE TRASH - Lower-class white people. 'There were white people who were poor and there were poor white people. The difference was absolute.'
(Jonathan Daniels, 'Tar Heels,' 1941) The offensive term goes back at least to the early 19th century. 'The slaves themselves entertain the very highest contempt for
white servants, whom they designate as 'poor white trash.' ' (Frances Kimble, 'Journal,' 1833) Terms like poor white, poor white trash, redneck and peckerwood
are often slur names in about the same class as nigger."
: Grady McWhiney, in "Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South," (The University of Alabama Press, 1988) makes a distinction concerning the term
CRACKER and tries to reclaim the term that is now used as a slur. He says that "cracker," in Scotch-Irish dialect meant "a person who talked boastingly." Later the
term Crackers came to mean a Scotch-Irishmen, a particular group of people.
: McWhiney says Cracker eventually became a disparaging term and Crackers were equated with "poor whites."
: He quotes historian Lewis C. Gray, in "History of Agriculture in the Southern United States to 1860," as associating the term Cracker with other slurs: "The
distinctive characteristics of poor whites were recognized in the various special appellations by which they were contemptuously known in different parts of the
South, such as, 'piney-woods people,' 'dirt-eaters,' 'clay-eaters,' 'tallow-faced gentry,' 'sand-hillers,' and 'crackers.'"
: McWhiney asserts that Crackers are a distinctive ethnic group - the Scotch-Irish - and is appalled that, ".in a nation in which slurs based upon race, ethnicity, or
religion have become strictly taboo, it is still acceptable to lampoon Crackers as a group."
Since we're on the subject, ethnic groups have always had derogatory (for insult only)"pet names" thoughout history. I remember (about 100 threads back) a
discussion about the origin of gringo which I beleive meant "a Greek" as a mocking of not understanding when whites spoke. I find that funny. I also (in jest) find your
explanation of the rednecks origin funny with regard to sunburned necks--it makes sense. Who knows if these, and the like, began as simple boyish grammar school
jousting like "four eyes" then abused later. I'm interested in how many more of these "pet names" originated this way.
There are spanish(from Spain), italian and Irish. I was wondering the origin of "Spic" and "Hick". and "Ginny"? I'm truley interested. Besides, unless one knows the
origin of these words---how could one take offense. (Not knowing what you're being compared to or referred to). Thanks.
: : +: Since we're on the subject, ethnic groups have always had derogatory (for insult only)"pet names" thoughout history. I remember (about 100 threads back) a
discussion about the origin of gringo which I beleive meant "a Greek" as a mocking of not understanding when whites spoke.
: : Along the same lines, I believe the derogatory slang "honky", referring to whites, had its origins with insults like "hunky" and "bohunk". These latter are very strong
insults aimed at people of an Eastern European origin. They are basically combinations of Hungarian, Bohemian (in the sense of coming from Bohemia, now in the
Czech Republic)and Ukrainian. Where I come from in Western Canada, someone of Ukraininan heritage would probably take offense if you called him a "hunky" or
"bohunk"; but if you called any white person a "honky", they'd probably just laugh. It seems to be more retro-cheezy than actually insulting.
: : : There are spanish(from Spain), italian and Irish. I was wondering the origin of "Spic" and "Hick". and "Ginny"?
: : "Spic" is no doubt a bastardization of "Hispanic".
: Not too long ago someone on this site had told of the era of jazz and jazz clubs (either Chicago or New York)where a "select few" black female singers would
(after the show)go to the street and solicit sex. But, unlike today where prostitutes walk the streets, they would stay in the building until a car drove up and honked
(usually a white male)---thus here's comes a honky.
: I applaud your non PC attitude of some of these old ethnic slurs being retro-cheezy than actually insulting. Most of these origins are very funny.
HONKY OR HONKIE - This derogatory term for white people probably evolved from "hunkies," according to two references. "Black Talk: Words and Phrases
from the Hood to the Amen Corner" by Geneva Smitherman (Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1994): "Honky - a negative term for a white person. Probably derived
and borrowed from the name-calling and expression of resentment by settled European Americans against central and Eastern Europeans immigrants, who were
negatively referred to as 'hunkies' (from Hungarians). Blacks, in competition with these immigrants in the first half of the twentieth century, generalized the term to all
whites. Also hunky."
Ditto for "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Fact on File, New York, 1997): "HONKIE; BOHUNK - 'Bohunk,' a low
expression for a Polish- or Hungarian-American, arose at the turn of the century, and is probably a blend of Bohemian and Hungarian (both Poles and Hungarians
were called Bohemians). 'Bohunks' were also ' hunkies,' and black workers in the Chicago meat-packing plants probably pronounced this as 'honkie,' soon
applying it as a derisive term not just for their Polish and Hungarian co-workers but for all whites."
A personal note: in West Virginia "hunkie" means Italian-American.
HICK -"Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Volume 1, H-O" "n. 1. (formerly a hypocoristic form of Richard) an unsophisticated country
person; bumpkin; yokel."
Anyone know what "hypocoristic" means??
HILLBILLY -- "I Hear America Talking" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Von Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, 1976): ".Mountaineer, 1834, first applied to one who
hunted, wandered, or lived in the Appalachians; hillbilly (1900), as Hill-Billy)."
By the way, the West Virginia motto is "Mountaineers are always free."
"Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988): "hillbilly is exactly what the word implies -
a rustic from the hills.The earliest example of its use comes from the turn of this century and from the vicinity of Arkansas. Then its use spread throughout the South
and it became especially common in Kentucky and West Virginia."
But NOT where we can hear it. Hillbilly is one of them fightin' words.
"Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Volume 1, H-O" by J.E. Lighter, Random House, New York, 1994. "1900.In short, a Hill-Billie is a
free and untrammelled white citizen of Alabama, who lives in the hills, has no means to speak of, dresses as he can, talks as he please, drinks whiskey when he gets
it, and fires off his revolver as the fancy takes him."
Lord, that makes me homesick.
GRINGO - The "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" says that the ".legend that the Spanish American term 'gringo' - a pejorative label for an
American - came from 'Green Grow the Lilacs' is a good story." American soldiers was supposed to have ".sang this song repeatedly" during the Mexican war
and the "natives" heard it as "green-grow," thus "gringo."
".But the truth is the word 'gringo' was standard in Spain before 1787, half a century or more before the Mexican War.appearing in a Madrid publication in
1787 and meaning 'any person with a peculiar accent that prevents him from achieving the true Castilian accent.' In fact, the label 'gringo' was first pinned upon the
I like the "Green Grow the Lilacs" story better.
this may be from a blog, or one mans investigation, so take it as such , Rosco