Archive for August 7th, 2013

August 7, 2013

Guido

Guido [gwee-doh] is a slang term for a lower-class or working-class urban Italian American. Originally, it was used as a demeaning term for Italian Americans in general. More recently, it has come to refer to Italian Americans who conduct themselves in a thuggish, overtly macho manner.

The time period in which it obtained the latter meaning is not clear, but some sources date it to the 1970s or 1980s. The term is derived from either the proper name ‘Guido’ or the Italian verb ‘guidare’ (‘to drive’). Fishermen of Italian descent were once often called ‘Guidos’ in medieval times.

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August 7, 2013

Redneck

Redneck is a derogatory slang term used in reference to poor, uneducated white farmers, especially from the southern United States. It is similar in meaning to ‘cracker’ (especially regarding Georgia and Florida), ‘hillbilly’ (especially regarding Appalachia and the Ozarks), and ‘white trash’ (but without the last term’s suggestions of immorality).

By the 2000s, the term had expanded in meaning to refer to bigoted, loutish reactionaries who are opposed to modern ways, and has often been used to attack white Southern conservatives. The term is also used broadly to degrade working class and rural whites that are perceived by urban progressives to be insufficiently liberal. At the same time, some Southern whites have reclaimed the word, using it with pride and defiance as a self-identifier.

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August 7, 2013

Hillbilly

Beverly Hillbillies

Hillbilly is a term (often derogatory) for people who dwell in rural, mountainous areas of the United States, primarily Appalachia in the east but also the Ozarks in the center of the country. Owing to its strongly stereotypical connotations, the term can be offensive to those Americans of Appalachian heritage.

Origins of the term are obscure. According to Anthony Harkins in ‘Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon,’ it first appeared in print in a 1900 ‘New York Journal’ article, with the definition: ‘a Hill-Billie is a free and untrammeled white citizen of Alabama, who lives in the hills, has no means to speak of, dresses as he can, talks as he pleases, drinks whiskey when he gets it, and fires off his revolver as the fancy takes him.’

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August 7, 2013

Honky

honky tonk girl

Honky is a racial slur for white people, predominantly heard in the United States. The first recorded use of honky in this context may date back to 1946, although the use of ‘Honky Tonk’ (a type of bar common in the South) appeared in films well before that time.

The exact origins of the word are generally unknown and postulations about the subject vary. Honky may derive from the term ‘xonq nopp’ which, in the West African language Wolof, literally means ‘red-eared person’ or ‘white person.’ The term may have been brought to the US by slaves.

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August 7, 2013

Cracker

Georgia cracker

Cracker is a derogatory term for white people, especially poor rural whites in the Southern United States. In reference to a native of Florida or Georgia, however, it is sometimes used in a neutral or positive context and is sometimes used self-descriptively with pride as a form of reappropriation. There are multiple suggested etymologies for ‘cracker,’ most dating its origin to the 18th century or earlier.

One theory holds that the term derives from the ‘cracking’ of whips, either by slave foremen in the antebellum South against African slaves, or by rustics to guide their cattle. Those white foremen or rural poor who cracked their whips theoretically became known as ‘crackers.’ Another whip-derived theory is based on Florida’s ‘cracker cowboys’ of the 19th and early 20th centuries; distinct from the Spanish ‘vaquero’ and the Western ‘cowboy.’ Cracker cowboys did not use lassos to herd or capture cattle. Their primary tools were cow whips and dogs.

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