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Redneck Culture

Popular culture

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy, himself a Southerner and a self-described redneck, has written several best-selling books about the stereotype, including Games Rednecks Play and the You Might Be a Redneck If... series. His works spawned many types of humorous redneck merchandise such as t-shirts and stickers that are quite popular among white southerners. Foxworthy did much to establish "redneck" as a term of pride and endearment by focusing on humorous and positive aspects of redneck culture.

King of the Hill is an American animated sit-com based on a more modern, somewhat softened and sympathetic version of redneck life.

Country music singer Gretchen Wilson titled one of her songs Redneck Woman on her 2004 album Here for the Party.

Author Jim Goad wrote a book titled The Redneck Manifesto that explores some of the socioeconomic history of this word and the people it is leveled at.

redneck manifesto, jim goad, redneck religion

The word redneck is first cited in Scotland, where it referred to supporters of the National Covenant and The Solemn League and Covenant, otherwise known as Covenanters - largely lowland Presbyterians.

The Covenanters in the mid 1600's signed documents that stated Scotland desired the Presbyterian form of church government and would not accept the Church of England as its official state church. To signify their desire, many Covenanters signed the documents in their own blood, would spill their blood to keep this from happening and wore red pieces of cloth around their necks as distinctive insignia - hence the term Redneck.

These Scottish Presbyterians migrated from their lowland Scottish home to Ulster (the northern province of Ireland) during the 17th Century and soon settled in considerable numbers in North America across the 18th Century. One etymological theory holds that since many Scotch-Irish who settled in what would become the South were Presbyterian, the term was bestowed upon them and their descendants.
Related terms
South Africa
In South Africa, the Afrikaans term rooinek (meaning "redneck") was derisively applied by Afrikaners to the British soldiers who fought during the Boer Wars, because their skin was sensitive to the harsh African sun. The phrase is still used by Afrikaners to describe English-speaking white people.

Ironically, the term "redneck" is also used by the English to describe very conservative Afrikaners because of that group's historic support of apartheid, a system of white, minority power and privilege and black and "coloured" exploitation and disenfranchisement, possibly by analogy to the American usage described above.

"Poor whites" in Barbados (descendants largely of seventeenth century English, Scottish, and Irish indentured servants and deportees) were called Red Legs. Many of these families moved to Virginia and the Carolinas as large sugar plantations replaced small tobacco farming.

The epithet cracker has been applied in a derogatory way, like redneck, to rural, non-elite white southerners, more specifically to those of south Georgia and north Florida. Folk etymology claims the term originated either from their cracking, or pounding, of corn (rather than taking it to mill), or from their use of whips to drive cattle. The latter explanation makes sense, because in piney-woods Georgia and Florida pastoral yeomen did use bullwhips with "cracker" tips to herd cattle.

The true history of the name, however, is more involved and shows a shift in application over time. Linguists now believe the original root to be the Gaelic craic, still used in Ireland (anglicized in spelling to crack) for "entertaining conversation." The English meaning of cracker as a braggart appears by Elizabethan times, as, for example, in Shakespeare's King John (1595): "What cracker is this . . . that deafes our ears / With this abundance of superfluous breath?"

Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South, by Grady McWhiney

By the 1760s the English, both at home and in colonial America, were applying the term to Scots-Irish settlers of the southern backcountry, as in this passage from a letter to the earl of Dartmouth: "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 Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, and Georgia, who often change their places of abode." The word then came to be associated with the cowboys of Georgia and Florida, many of them descendants of those early frontiersmen.

Among African Americans cracker became a contemptuous term for a white southerner; among some southern whites it has become a label of ethnic and regional pride, boosted by the election of south Georgian Jimmy Carter to the presidency in 1976. This led to the coining of the word crackertude as a not entirely serious answer to negritude.


See also

* Good ol' boy network
* Hillbilly
* White trash
* Trailer park trash

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