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Author Topic: Origins of Racial Epithets? (some NfBSK)
ParaDiddle
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I'm hoping that this is the place to seek some information (or links to same) on some things I've always assumed to be true. In my family and neighborhood, we often discussed how and why certain words were used and how they came to be so hurtful. Most of the explanations have been passed only orally, and I personally have seen little hard documentation. I don't use such terms because it is my belief that words have meanings for a reason and sometimes that reason is to cause pain. In these cases it IS the thought that counts.

(an epithet for caucasians) drived from sunburns which often occurred on the backs of their necks.

(an epithet for Africans) derived from a dialect-realted mispronounciation of the word 'negro'.

(an epithet for caucasians) derived from the habit of clients looking for prostitutes who'd sit in their cars and honk the horn as a signal.

(an epithet for Africans) derived from either the way malnourished eyesockets darken and begin to resemble a nocturnal marsupial or the manner in which the animal and runaway slaves were hunted.

(an epithet for caucasians) drived from the sound (crack) of the slave overseer's whip

I ask now because the conversation recently came up at work and someone asked why I beleived what I was saying. I was genuinely ashamed to admit that I didn't have a good reason to believe what I had always been told. Any information or links would be appreciated.

{edited to re-word the paragraphs regarding the mispronounced term and the hunting for runawy slaves term}


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ISNorden
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quote:
Originally posted by ParaDiddle:
(an epithet for caucasians) drived from sunburns which often occurred on the backs of their necks.

I never thought of that word as racial; for me it has always had the connotation of "unsophisticated person from the country"--a stereotypical hick, not just any Caucasian.

quote:
(an epithet for Africans) derived from southern caucasians' inability the word 'negro'.

The more offensive word does have roots in common with "Negro", and ethnic slurs sometmes do originate with distortions of the "acceptable" names for people. On the other hand, I am skeptical about Caucasians in any part of the U.S. being unable to pronounce "Negro".

quote:
(an epithet for caucasians) derived from the habit of clients looking for prostitutes who'd sit in their cars and honk the horn as a signal.

I suspect that this racial slur is older than the automobile, but I would need references to prove it.

quote:
(an epithet for Africans) derived from either the darkness of thier malnourished eyesockets or the manner in which runaway slaves were hunted.

This one could be simply a reference to skin color, of course...

quote:
(an epithet for caucasians) derived from the sound (crack) of the slave overseer's whip

Like the first term you mentioned, I've never seen this used for all Caucasians; judging by the uses I have heard, it appears to be similar to "white trash" or "trailer trash", implying a poor rural background as well as skin color. That class of people would not have originally owned slaves or threatened them with a whip! (I will admit that the word still insults people to whom it could refer, though...)


Ingeborg "them's fightin' words!" Nordén


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ParaDiddle
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Maybe this is to soon for a clarification, I mean, the thread has been up for less than a day. I wonder if some of my questions and statements were unclear. I ackowledege that I am better at scrutinizing the work of others than composing on my own.
I am trying to move in a direction that started with anecdotes (which I acknowledge to be unverifiable) toward documentable facts.
Remember where I indicated that it is indeed the thought that counts. You may trust that the terms alluded to in my post have been commonly used in a perjorative vein. Although certain entertainers have made careers of turning a slur (the sumburn one) into humor, the word and it's origin should still be verifible.
There are AT LEAST two terms on the list which have been adopted and co-opted as a'term of endearment' by the term's original target group. This still doesn't deny the word's initial derogatory use.
The inaccuracies of anecdotes are what is in question. One anecdote does not necessarily refute another. You may want to trust me though, the sunburn one and the overseer one have been used as universally derogatory ethnic slurs.

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ParaDiddle
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quote:
(an epithet for Africans) derived from either the darkness of thier malnourished eyesockets or the manner in which runaway slaves were hunted.


This one could be simply a reference to skin color, of course...

The animal to which I was alluding, a raccoon, I've always known to be grey. They do have a dark (mask) area around their eyes. I'm unsure how you imply the slur may be related to the skin color of persons of African descent, please explain.
In the southern US (still to this day), racoons are hunted with Bloodhounds. If you can figure out how one refers to a Bloodhound trained to hunt 'raccoons', you'll see a possible indicator of the ethnic slur. The 'raccon' is the target of the hunt, even if the dog is set upon a human being.
That is the nature of the anecdote as it was always explained to me. Please, if any of my other terms are still unclear, post here and I will try to clarify.


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Kamino Neko
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quote:
Originally posted by ParaDiddle:
The animal to which I was alluding, a raccoon, I've always known to be grey. They do have a dark (mask) area around their eyes.

Oooooh, so that's what you meant. I couldn't figure out what in the name of all that's holy this could have been.

Please, as long as you're not actually using them as a slur, I don't see what's wrong with actually NAMING the slur when trying to discuss it. Makes it easier...

Tengu 'But maybe I'm alone in this...'

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VeebleFetzer
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Yeah, Tengu, I agree. I wasn't at all sure what some of the (epithets) were meant to be, though I understand and simpathise with the reason for retisence.

If we want to discuss this sensibily, we need to be able to use the words in question.

Sometimes you have to call a spa . . . er . .. .

well . . . sometimes you have to call a (implement of manual soil removal) a (suit of cards that is neither clubs, diamonds or hearts).

VeebleFetzer

and does anyone care to explain that one?

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ParaDiddle
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quote:
Originally posted by Tengu, Lord of Mists:
Please, as long as you're not actually using them as a slur, I don't see what's wrong with actually NAMING the slur when trying to discuss it. Makes it easier...

Tengu 'But maybe I'm alone in this...'



No, you're probably not alone, Tengu. I understand and sympathize but will defer the task to someone else. My only reason is that there is a word on the list that REALLY rubs me the wrong way, even when used as a 'term of endearment'. I'm in an odd position of asking people for background information about words I refuse to use. Besides, we DO still try to observe decorum here, right?

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Kamino Neko
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quote:
Originally posted by ParaDiddle:
Besides, we DO still try to observe decorum here, right?

I think you can mention the words under discussion without breeching decorum. If we were discussing the origins of oscenities, it would be helpful to post at least write them as 'f*ck' and 'sh*t' (although that's a touch...silly, to my mind, but, y'know), and same goes here.

(The words unmentioned in the OP are redneck, nigger, honky, coon and cracker, for anyone who hasn't figured them out yet.)

Tengu

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Lindiglo
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I understand Italian isn't a race, but does anybody know where (burger kings most famous burger) - (the ending of most unconjugated french verbs) came from? Being Italian myself and hearing the word constantly because of my Italian neighbourhood, what does it mean?
Lindiglo

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odaiwai
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quote:
Originally posted by ParaDiddle:
(an epithet for Africans) derived from a dialect-realted mispronounciation of the word 'negro'.

Bill Bryson, in his book 'Mother Tongue', mentions that the original pronounciation would have been close to 'Neger', possibly related to the French 'Negre'. This, to my mind, makes the transition to the more usual form of the word[1] more understandable.

It's a good book, and should be compulsory reading for all those who rant for/against UK/USA spelling differences.

dave "elephant's boot"

[1] No, I don't like saying it either.


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Falomus the Conqueror
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You mean "wop" right?

It's the same as mick and frog.

Notice how I didnt alter the words in some way to make it "non offensive?" Should I replace a letter with an asterisk so nobody will know what the word is? Cripes! People know what it is anyway, replacing things with asterisks is just silly.


-Fallom


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Lindiglo
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quote:
Originally posted by Falomus the Conqueror:
You mean "wop" right?


Gee, way to spoil the joke. I was awfully confused when reading the original post. Glad the answers were posted. I feel my equation was easier. as long as you know "Whopper" Your allllllright. I agree with you, fal, I guess my jokes aren't funny, so people take them literally.
Lind"and that makes me pretty sad"iglo

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Falomus the Conqueror
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quote:
Originally posted by Lindiglo, The Bonsai Kitten:
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Falomus the Conqueror:
[b]You mean "wop" right?


Gee, way to spoil the joke. I was awfully confused when reading the original post. Glad the answers were posted. I feel my equation was easier. as long as you know "Whopper" Your allllllright. I agree with you, fal, I guess my jokes aren't funny, so people take them literally.
Lind"and that makes me pretty sad"iglo[/B][/QUOTE]

Ooooooh! I see. Too subtle.

-Fallom "The problem with my humor is that people start to think I belong in a mental hospital"


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RealityChuck
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This should answer some of the your questions.

But it's unlikely "wop" is an acronym.


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Tom-Tzu
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I recall reading another etymology for the term "cracker", suggesting that it was related to the pale colour of a soda cracker.
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ParaDiddle
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I recall reading another etymology for the term "cracker", suggesting that it was related to the pale colour of a soda cracker.[/QUOTE]
Thanx for the reminder, Tom-Tzu. I remember hearing that one as well. It's just this kind of duplication of 'myths' that make me believe that all these word origins are just the product of someone's imagination.

quote:
Originally posted by Lindiglo, The Bonsai Kitten:
I understand Italian isn't a race, but does anybody know where (burger kings most famous burger) - (the ending of most unconjugated french verbs) came from? Being Italian myself and hearing the word constantly because of my Italian neighbourhood, what does it mean?
Lindiglo


Nicely done Lindiglo. I had to think on how unconjugated French verbs end, but I got it. I appreciate the lighthearted approach because a topic like this can easily get out of hand.

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ParaDiddle
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quote:
Originally posted by RealityChuck:
This should answer some of the your questions.

But it's unlikely "wop" is an acronym.



Thanx Chuck. That is the type of link I was looking for. I hope there are more to be found.

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ISNorden
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paradiddle--I had believed that the slur you orignally meant was "darky", not "coon" (my fault for misunderstanding that one...when you mentioned animals it became clearer though).

I also didn't deny that "redneck" and "cracker" were insulting words, just that the insult was based primarily on race. (They seem to be more "social-background slurs" than true ethnic slurs IMO.)


Ingeborg "mincing words" Nordén


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ParaDiddle
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quote:
Originally posted by ISNorden:
paradiddle--I had believed that the slur you orignally meant was "darky", not "coon" (my fault for misunderstanding that one...when you mentioned animals it became clearer though).

Understood, ISN. I re-read my response and feel it's necessary to apologize for seeming as if my dander was up. it was not.

quote:
Originally posted by ISNorden:
I also didn't deny that "redneck" and "cracker" were insulting words, just that the insult was based primarily on race. (They seem to be more "social-background slurs" than true ethnic slurs IMO.)
Ingeborg "mincing words" Nordén


You may be correct but, there are lots of words that started one way but through use are applied many other ways. Illinoians made up a derisive term for Wisconsinites that has been turned into an unofficial mascot/symbol.
I keep referring to the N-word. Many have attempted to redefine it as a term of endearment and some try to pass it off as a socio-economic epithet w/ multi-racial targets. Can we acknowledge that the latter is a reach?

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*Astrik*
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quote:
Originally posted by ParaDiddle:

(an epithet for Caucasians) derived from sunburns which often occurred on the backs of their necks.

I read Bryce Courtenay's The Power of One and there's an Afrikaans word in the glossary that translates to "redneck" but it's not quite the same as any meanings here:

quote:

ROOINEK Meaning redneck (but not white trash). It comes from the Boer war where the English soldiers, not used to the sun has their necks badly burned.

The explanation for that word matches up with the one posted earlier, but the thing is, this word was used to refer to English people, as in people from England. The story's narrator is an English boy named Peekay (well...that's not his real name, but that's hard to explain) and the word was always used in a derogatory manner, but that was because the English imprisoned Afrikaners during the Boer War, not because Peekay lived in a trailer park.


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supergeak
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what about 'pommie', as a derogatory term for brits, used primarily by australians? My australian friend said that it came from 'pomegranate", and described the ruddy, broken veined complexion some fair skinned english people get? I don't know exactly how derogatory a word this is...any brits or aussies care to enlighten me?
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Gus
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quote:
Originally posted by supergeak:
what about 'pommie', as a derogatory term for brits, used primarily by australians? My australian friend said that it came from 'pomegranate", and described the ruddy, broken veined complexion some fair skinned english people get? I don't know exactly how derogatory a word this is...any brits or aussies care to enlighten me?

I'm not sure how offensive it is, but another theory for "pommie" (from Evan Morris )

quote:
The most logical theory, however, explains the term as an example of rhyming slang, the argot of London s Cockney underworld. ...Pom, it seems, is almost certainly a second-generation slang word derived from pomegranate, a rhyme with the Australian slang term jimmygrant. "Jimmygrant," it seems, was at one time Australian rhyming slang for immigrant, so "pom" involves a double rhyme.

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Spooky
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quote:
Originally posted by VeebleFetzer:

Sometimes you have to call a spa . . . er . .. .

well . . . sometimes you have to call a (implement of manual soil removal) a (suit of cards that is neither clubs, diamonds or hearts).

VeebleFetzer

and does anyone care to explain that one?



Yay! I was involved with the original discussion of this. Let me see if I can find the thread ....

Noooooooo!!!!!!! The thread seems to have disappeared into the ether. Damn!

OK, Evan Morris (the Word Detective) covered this one here. I was sure the main snopes site also had a write-up, but I seem to be hallucinating. My contribution to the original thread was a variant of the phrase still reasonably common Down Under "Call a spade a spade and not a shovel" - it turned out later in the thread that this form is in fact indicitive of the origin of the phrase.

Spooky


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Purple Sprouted Broccoli
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quote:
Originally posted by Gus:
I'm not sure how offensive it is, but another theory for "pommie" (from Evan Morris )

[QUOTE]The most logical theory, however, explains the term as an example of rhyming slang, the argot of London s Cockney underworld. ...Pom, it seems, is almost certainly a second-generation slang word derived from pomegranate, a rhyme with the Australian slang term jimmygrant. "Jimmygrant," it seems, was at one time Australian rhyming slang for immigrant, so "pom" involves a double rhyme.


[/QUOTE]

....and, then agin, there is also a theorem propounded (dig the fancy wording, eh?) that the word POM is a derivation of the lettering that the prisoners who had been transported to the colonies on Australia were forced to wear on their clothing, P.O.H.M., signifying Prisoner of His/Her Majesty.

lol,
PSB
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supergeak
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The general snopes consensus on acronyms is that, since they didn't become common in language until after WWII, that theories abot woords being derioved from acronyms from before that time period are generally bogus. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that australia was colonized some time in the 19th century, before acronyms came into major use. So the P.O.M theory is out the window. This is the same reason that the similar explanation for 'wop' as being an acronym for 'without papers' is probably false also
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damaris
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Checked the New (1986...)Dictionary of American Slang

cracker n - late 1700's - a Southern rustic or poor white = redneck [probably from the use of horsewhips with a piece of buckskin at the end for cracking].

redneck n - a bigoted and conventional person; a loutish ultraconservative [perhaps from the characteristic ruddy neck of an angry person, and influenced by the image of a bigoted rural Southern white person; perhaps from the fact that pellagra, a deficiency disease associated with poor Southern whites, produces a dermatitus that turns the neck red].


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ParaDiddle
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quote:
Originally posted by damaris:
Checked the New (1986...)Dictionary of American Slang
cracker n
redneck n


Awesome cite, Damaris! Two Qs; Who published the dictionary? Are any of the other words on the list covered?

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damaris
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Thanks, ParaDiddle -

Would have replied sooner, but I ran across beer joint, which said to see "big joint,clip joint, joint hop, mitt camp, nose-out-of-joint, right joint" and...oh! Ahem. What was the question?

New Dictionary of American Slang,edited by Robert L. Chapman, Harper & Row, 1986. States it is based on the Dictionary of American Slang by Harold Wentworth and Stuart Berg Flexner. It's always fun to watch someone surreptitiously open it to the f's. They'll still be looking things up an hour later.

The only other DAS entry I found that has more to add than what has already been discussed was for

wop or Wop n - early 1900's: an Italian or person of Italian descent [apparently fr southern Italian dialect guappo"dandy, dude, stud", used as a greeting by male Neapolitans].


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ParaDiddle
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quote:
Originally posted by damaris:
Thanks, ParaDiddle -
New Dictionary of American Slang,edited by Robert L. Chapman, Harper & Row, 1986. States it is based on the Dictionary of American Slang by Harold Wentworth and Stuart Berg Flexner. It's always fun to watch someone surreptitiously open it to the f's. They'll still be looking things up an hour later.


OK, I'll bite. What gems can be found in the F section?
- Para "Hijacking my own thread" Diddle

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damaris
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I don't know ..they seldom get past the second entry (face - see "bald face, bag your face, dollface, flange face,...")and go crosseyed by "faloosie".

I made it as far as "fantods", once.


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zeldarae
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My mother's side of the family is what polite people call Cajuns. We, however, call ourselves Coonasses. I think they softened it up for the tourists. I was taught that a Redneck was anyone from the south that wasn't a Coonass. My father's family is orginally from Mississippi, so that makes me a Redass.

zelda"proud to be an Achee"rae.


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ParaDiddle
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quote:
Originally posted by zeldarae:
My mother's side of the family is what polite people call Cajuns. We, however, call ourselves Coonasses. I think they softened it up for the tourists. . .
zelda"proud to be an Achee"rae.


So, where'd that term come from?

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abbubmah
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WWW.COONASS.COM

You knew there had to be one didn't you! I read with some amusement his "reasons". Who knows?

I ain't one, BTW. Interestingly enough, Cajuns can call each other "coonass", and it's a compliment. Anybody else says it, it's an insult. Sound familiar?


00 "close to the source" Bubba

(dog smilie because every coonass has a dog)

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bufungla
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Didn't see these theories in the list, so here goes (excuse me if I missed reading them somewhere in the list):

I had always heard that "nigger" came from a mispronuciation of the country name "Niger", and that "honkey" described how white's voices sounded to blacks (presumably similar to how Greeks ended up calling non-Greeks "barbarians" because of how their speech sounded in comparison to their own).

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"Pardon him. Theodotus: he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature."

George Bernard Shaw, Caesar and Cleopatra


Posts: 4847 | From: Washington, DC | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Don Gato
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quote:
Originally posted by bufungla:
(presumably similar to how Greeks ended up calling non-Greeks "barbarians" because of how their speech sounded in comparison to their own).

When I was in college, I did a presentation on the etymology of the word "philistine". One interesting factoid I discovered was that with philistine (and to a lesser degree with "spartan"), the word to describe inhabitants of a geographic area eventually morphed into an adjective highlighting a negative trait about them. But with "barbarians", it was actually the opposite: The Barbary Coast got its name because its inhabitants were viewed as barbarians.

Frank


Posts: 951 | From: The place to be | Registered: Mar 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
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