Reply Fri 19 Mar, 2004 04:53 pm
I was curious how these names got their start.
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Reply Fri 19 Mar, 2004 04:57 pm
Don't know about honkey, but i have read that cracker comes from "whipcracker." Initially, south Georgia and northern and central Florida were cattle grazing regions, with little crop growing. There was a good market at Tampa for beef which would then be shipped out to Havana and other parts of the Spanish empire. Whipcracker got shortened to cracker, and then the term took on the character of redneck. Country people are usually stereotyped as ignorant and hateful (of course, one would never think that about those who so describe them!).

Redneck was a term originally applied by the English to my ancestors, the Irish. You can't get much whiter than an Irishman, so when he spends all the livelong day bent over a plow, or at some other form of agricultural scut work for his (often absentee) English landlord, you can bet his neck will be burned red in no time flat.
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ebrown p
Reply Fri 19 Mar, 2004 05:01 pm

Honky, an African American slang term for a white person, dates to at least 1946. The origin is not quite certain, but it is most likely a dialectical variation on the older term hunky or hunk. This latter terms date to 1909 and 1896 respectively and are probably from Hungarian. Unlike honky, the latter terms are usually used to denote people of Slavic or Central European ancestry and are not primarily used by African Americans.

Also related are hunyak or honyock, which date to c.1907 and are probably compounds of Hun[garian] + [Pol]ack.

All the terms are used contemptuously.


Throughout the American South, poor, white trash are referred to as crackers. The most common explanation for the origin of this phrase is that it is from corncracker, or someone who distills corn whiskey (cracking corn is to crush it into a mash for distillation). The song lyric Jimmy Crack Corn is a reference to this. In the song, a slave sings about how his master was thrown from his horse when it was bitten by a blue-tail fly, hit his head, and died. And the slave "don't care." (This was a pretty subversive song for its day.) This is not, however, the origin of the ethnic term cracker. The term corncracker is first attested to only in 1835, well after cracker was established as a term for a white man.

Another common false etymology is that the term comes from the crack of a whip. This tale has the origin in white overseers of slaves, or "whipcrackers," who brutalized their charges. Again, this explanation has no evidence to support it.

Instead, cracker comes from an old sense of crack meaning to boast. This sense dates to the 15th century and is still in dialectical use, mainly Scots, in Britain. A 1766 quote in the OED2 gives the origin of cracker as boastful.

both from www.wordorigins.org
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Reply Fri 19 Mar, 2004 05:10 pm
Ya learn something new every day. I had thought it was from cracker barrel.
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Joe Nation
Reply Fri 19 Mar, 2004 05:15 pm
And I thought it was from all those peanuts and pecans (no I didn't)
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Reply Fri 19 Mar, 2004 07:36 pm
I appreciate the education. Smile
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Reply Sat 20 Mar, 2004 09:06 am
Actually, although I can not substantiate it, "honkey" comes from the white guys who went through Harlem blowing their horns at the black chicks. Another term for "cracker" is white sager, or worthless people who lay among the broom sage and watched while other folks worked.
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