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Honky (also spelled honkey or honkie) is a racial slur for white people, predominantly heard in the United States. The first recorded use of honky dates to 1946[1], but the exact origins of the word are unknown.

Honky may be a variant of hunky, which was a variant of Bohunk, a slur for Bohemian-Hungarian immigrants[2]. Honky might also derive from the term "honk nopp" which, in the west African language Wolof means, literally, "red-eared person" or "white person". The term may have originated with Wolof-speaking slaves brought to the U.S.[3] Another documented theory and possible explanation for the origins of the word is that white men called "johns" would honk their horns for prostitutes in urban areas such as Harlem and red-light districts in the early 1900s[4][5][6][7].

Contents

Alternate meanings and uses

Honkey was adopted as a pejorative in 1967 by black militants within SNCC seeking a rebuttal for the term nigger. National Chairman of the SNCC, H. Rap Brown, on June 24, 1967, told an audience of blacks in Cambridge, "You should burn that school down and then go take over the honkey's school." Brown went on to say: "If America don't come round, we got to burn it down. You better get some guns, brother. The only thing the honkey respects is a gun. You give me a gun and tell me to shoot my enemy, I might shoot Ladybird."[8]

Honky was also used as a general term for white people, not always in a negative meaning. For example, during the 1968 trial of Black Panther Party member Huey Newton, fellow Panther Eldridge Cleaver created pins for Newton's white supporters stating "Honkies for Huey."[9]

In Asia, Honky is also used to refer to people from Hong Kong (who are, of course, generally not white people).[citation needed]

Honky Tonk Man has been used frequently in popular culture for various reasons and people.

The term "Honky" is also a familiar short form for "Honcarenko" (pronounced "Honk-a-ren-ko") which is the slavic word for "Ukrainian" (Humesky, Assya. Modern Ukrainian. University of Michigan / Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies. Toronto: 1999. ISBN: 1-895571-29-4)

Television

In a popular sketch on SNL, Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor used both "nigger" (Chase) and "honky" (Pryor) in reference to one another during a "racist word association interview."[10]

On the TV show The Jeffersons, George Jefferson regularly referred to white people as honkies. This word would later be popularized in episodes of Mork & Mindy by Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters.

The black neighbour on the TV show Love Thy Neighbour, played by Rudolph Walker would often refer to his bigoted white neighbour {Jack Smethurst) as 'honkey'.

The Canadian TV Show Jamaican For Honkeys starring comedians Kevin Jackal Johnston and Trixx uses the term in the show title.

On the TV show Family Guy, Peter Griffin attempts to portray himself as racist to get out of jury duty. He does so by describing the other white jury members as honkies.

Music

The word honky may refer to a particular type of country music, called honky tonk.[11]

Country musicians such as David Allen Coe and other successful artists have used this word in popular songs such as: "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" (Kitty Wells), "Honky Tonk Women" (The Rolling Stones), "Honky Cat" (Elton John), "Honky Tonk Blues" (Hank Williams) and "Honky Tonk Man" (Johnny Horton).[5]

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary (1989) second edition, entries for "Honky" and "Hunk": http://dictionary.oed.com/
  2. ^ the Oxford English Dictionary
  3. ^ Sheila S. Walker (2001). "African roots/American cultures". http://books.google.com/books?id=EJzHiqBPJCoC&pg=PA57#v=onepage&q=&f=false. Retrieved 2009-08-05. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ [3]
  7. ^ [4]
  8. ^ Full text of US Army Intelligence report on SNCC at "African-American Involvement in the Vietnam War" website.
  9. ^ "Radical Saul Alinsky: Prophet of Power to the People," Time Magazine
  10. ^ Paul Mooney (1975-12-13). "Racist Word Association Interview". http://snltranscripts.jt.org/75/75ginterview.phtml. Retrieved 2008-12-06. 
  11. ^ The Oxford English Dictionary states that the origin of the term honky tonk is unknown. The earliest source explaining the derivation of the term was an article published in 1900 by the New York Sun and widely reprinted in other newspapers, such as the Reno Evening Gazette (Nevada), 3 February 1900, pg. 2, col. 5. "Every child of the range can tell what honkatonk means and where it came from. Away, away back in the very early days, so the story goes, a party of cow punchers rode out from camp at sundown in search of recreation after a day of toil. They headed for a place of amusement, but lost the trail. From far out in the distance there finally came to their ears a 'honk-a-tonk-a-tonk-a-tonk-a,' which they mistook for the bass viol. They turned toward the sound, to find alas! a dock [sic] of wild geese. So honkatonk was named. N. Y. Sun.







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