Saturday, July 18, 2009

Catherine H: Etymologies 5-9

My family of origin is from Eastern Kentucky. Growing up in Ohio and Florida I heard these names (often preceded by the word “stupid”) for my people. For years I was ashamed of my heritage until I got old enough to discern that one could milk a lot of entertainment value out of being a “stupid hillbilly” and then of course, I exaggerated my Appalachian-ness as much as possible.

"southern Appalachian resident," c.1900, from hill + masc. proper name Billy/Billie. As a type of folk music, first attested 1924.
"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 pleases, drinks whiskey when he gets it, and fires of his revolver as the fancy takes him." ["New York Journal," April 23, 1900]

"in poor taste," 1862, adj. use of tackey (n.) "small or inferior horse" (1800), later "hillbilly, cracker" (1888), of uncertain origin.
It was my mother who used this word (“those tackies”) about the folks who lived in the houses down by the railroad tracks. As a child, I imagined the name came from the act of tacking up newspaper over glassless windows.

1376, nickname of Richard. Meaning "awkward provincial person" is first recorded 1565 (cf. rube). The adj. is first recorded 1920, in Sinclair Lewis' "Main Street": "He graduated from a hick college in Pennsylvania."
"A hick town is one where there is no place to go where you shouldn't be." [Robert Quillen, 1933]

"cracker," 1893; attested 1830 in more specialized sense ("This may be ascribed to the Red Necks, a name bestowed upon the Presbyterians in Fayetteville," from Ann Royall, "Southern Tour I," p.148). According to various theories, red perhaps from anger, or from pellagra, but most likely from mule farmers' outdoors labor in the sun, wearing a shirt and straw hat, with the neck exposed.

When I was in the eighth grade, my family moved to Florida and I discovered the grand masters, exalted, right reverends of all rednecks – the Florida Cracker.
1440, "hard wafer," but the specific application to a thin, crisp biscuit is 1739. Cracker-barrel (adj.) "emblematic of down-home ways and views" is from 1877. Cracker, Southern U.S. derogatory term for "poor, white trash" (1766), is from c.1450 crack "to boast" (e.g. not what it's cracked up to be), originally a Scottish word. Especially of Georgians by 1808, though often extended to residents of northern Florida.
"I should explain to your Lordship what is meant by crackers; a name they have got from being great boasters; they are a lawless set of rascalls on the frontiers of

No comments: