View Poll Results: I think that "cotton-picken" is:
Offensive and/or racist. 22 12.15%
Neither offensive nor racist. 138 76.24%
Other. 21 11.60%
Voters: 181. You may not vote on this poll

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  #1  
Old 04-15-2018, 01:07 PM
Nars Glinley Nars Glinley is offline
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Do you consider "cotton-picken" to be racist or offensive?

During a recent Oklahoma City Thunder game, play-by-play announcer Brian Davis said that Russell Westbrook was "out of his cotton-picken mind". He has been suspended for today's game. He has apologized. From what I've read, no one believes that Davis is a racist. The "color" announcer during the game is black and didn't say anything or react to the phrase.

I have heard the phrase my whole life and have never considered it racist or offensive.

Poll coming.
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  #2  
Old 04-15-2018, 01:18 PM
Beckdawrek Beckdawrek is offline
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I say it some. Like " get out of my cotton pickin' way", I don't think it's racist at all. In the south it's a common enough phrase.
  #3  
Old 04-15-2018, 01:38 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
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Originally Posted by Nars Glinley View Post
I have heard the phrase my whole life and have never considered it racist or offensive.
Same here.

I really suspect that the literal meaning of the word is irrelevant, and it's used as a sanitized version of the similar-sounding word that starts with m-f.
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Old 04-15-2018, 01:43 PM
Sunny Daze Sunny Daze is offline
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It never occurred to me that it was. Now that I think about it, I can see how it could be taken that way.
  #5  
Old 04-15-2018, 01:44 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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My first association with the phrase is Foghorn Leghorn, and if I heard anyone else using it, I'd probably assume that they got it from him, and thus wouldn't assume that the speaker was racist. That said, on thinking about it, it probably is racist in origin, and so it would be a good idea to stop using it anyway.
  #6  
Old 04-15-2018, 01:53 PM
Nars Glinley Nars Glinley is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
My first association with the phrase is Foghorn Leghorn, and if I heard anyone else using it, I'd probably assume that they got it from him, and thus wouldn't assume that the speaker was racist. That said, on thinking about it, it probably is racist in origin, and so it would be a good idea to stop using it anyway.
If phrases.org is to be believed, “cotton-pickin” should be distinguished from “cotton-picker”. The latter is supposedly racist in origin while the former is not.

https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/cotton-picking.html
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  #7  
Old 04-15-2018, 02:13 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
My first association with the phrase is Foghorn Leghorn, and if I heard anyone else using it, I'd probably assume that they got it from him, and thus wouldn't assume that the speaker was racist. That said, on thinking about it, it probably is racist in origin, and so it would be a good idea to stop using it anyway.
That was my thought. I heard the phrase all the time watching Warner Bros cartoons. In addition to Foghorn Leghorn, Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam used it. I never associated it with racism.

But that said, let's face facts. The classic Warner Bros cartoons were made decades ago and they didn't hesitate to include racist jokes. So it's possible the phrase has racist origins and I was just unaware of it.
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Old 04-15-2018, 02:22 PM
dalej42 dalej42 is offline
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Not racist. Maybe a bit dated. I can't imagine anyone who is a racist would want the job of broadcasting NBA games
  #9  
Old 04-15-2018, 02:37 PM
Asimovian Asimovian is offline
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It never occurred to me that it was. Now that I think about it, I can see how it could be taken that way.
Same. I grew up hearing this on a daily basis from my grandfather (who, coincidentally, was black). It was a his generic substitution for basically any curse word. As I don't recall EVER hearing anyone else say this outside of my family, the racial context would never have occurred to me prior to this thread.

As others have mentioned, it makes sense to me that the phrase has its origins in less-than-polite contexts, and therefore maybe should be avoided. But I would not have thought, and still do not think, that this announcer had any bigoted intent.
  #10  
Old 04-15-2018, 02:54 PM
ftg ftg is offline
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All of my relatives who picked cotton by hand way back when were white.

I am startled to think that anyone would consider it racist. Give me break.
  #11  
Old 04-15-2018, 02:57 PM
Sattua Sattua is offline
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It's one of those things that upsets some people, so I figure it's better and easier to just not say it. American English has no shortage of colorful turns of phrase. I can let that one go.
  #12  
Old 04-15-2018, 02:58 PM
AHunter3 AHunter3 is offline
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If "cotton pickin'" is racist, then I'd think designating someone as the "color" announcer would be racist. Especially if a person can designate a phrase as racist by simply proclaiming it to be so.

Now, I'm OK with the notion that I, as a person who has never been marginalized because of my race, ethnicity, or other related factors, might not be the best person to make such a proclamation. But I'll draw other folks' attention to it and let them make the call.

How dare they identify a sports announcer as the "color" announcer when historically it has sometimes been the case that the so-called "color" announcer is a person of color, and how likely is it that they've enjoyed the same status salary and privileges as the "play by play" announcer when the latter was white? C'mon, where's the outrage?

** taps feet **
  #13  
Old 04-15-2018, 03:01 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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How dare they identify a sports announcer as the "color" announcer when historically it has sometimes been the case that the so-called "color" announcer is a person of color, and how likely is it that they've enjoyed the same status salary and privileges as the "play by play" announcer when the latter was white? C'mon, where's the outrage?
How about we stay on the topic, which is based on a real world issue, rather than get diverted by a strawman?
  #14  
Old 04-15-2018, 03:40 PM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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It is racist and offensive to those who are determined to be offended no matter what.
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  #15  
Old 04-15-2018, 03:41 PM
Aspidistra Aspidistra is offline
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People have forgotten how community standards work.

1) Develop a commonly-understood community standard that <whatever> is the appropriate thing to say/innapropriate thing to say/way to behave etc
2) Encourage acceptance of the community standard to the point where most people know about it and agree with it
3) Penalise people who violate the community standard.

Steps 1 and 2 are not actually optional on the way to step 3
  #16  
Old 04-15-2018, 04:22 PM
Bayard Bayard is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
My first association with the phrase is Foghorn Leghorn, and if I heard anyone else using it, I'd probably assume that they got it from him, and thus wouldn't assume that the speaker was racist. That said, on thinking about it, it probably is racist in origin, and so it would be a good idea to stop using it anyway.
This is pretty much my view. I've never bothered to look up the origin of the phrase, but I figure it probably is racist. I'm sharp enough to come up with some other phrase.
  #17  
Old 04-15-2018, 04:45 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
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Originally Posted by Sattua View Post
It's one of those things that upsets some people
But that's the thing: before this week, it would never have occurred to me that it was "one of those things that upsets some people."
  #18  
Old 04-15-2018, 05:04 PM
Majestic Lee Majestic Lee is offline
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That was my thought. I heard the phrase all the time watching Warner Bros cartoons. In addition to Foghorn Leghorn, Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam used it. I never associated it with racism.

But that said, let's face facts. The classic Warner Bros cartoons were made decades ago and they didn't hesitate to include racist jokes. So it's possible the phrase has racist origins and I was just unaware of it.
I thought it was in the cartoon series "Deputy Dawg" I watched in the 1970s...
  #19  
Old 04-15-2018, 05:08 PM
romadea romadea is offline
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But that's the thing: before this week, it would never have occurred to me that it was "one of those things that upsets some people."
...welcome to the age of social media?
  #20  
Old 04-15-2018, 05:14 PM
k9bfriender k9bfriender is offline
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I don't know if it is really all that racist, but it most certainly is classist.

Not all the people picking cotton in the south were black, but they were all poor.

It's punching down, making fun of people who are not as well off as the people who didn't have to pick cotton.

The modern version I would say would be "burger flipper."
  #21  
Old 04-15-2018, 05:22 PM
rsat3acr rsat3acr is offline
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Robstown High School. Robstown Texas. The Cottonpickers
  #22  
Old 04-15-2018, 05:24 PM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Originally Posted by Nars Glinley View Post
The "color" announcer during the game is black and didn't say anything or react to the phrase.
However one answers the question, this kind of thing is not evidence of anything. In most situations, people in the minority have very good reasons to keep their reactions to themselves regardless of what else might be true.

Last edited by Acsenray; 04-15-2018 at 05:25 PM.
  #23  
Old 04-15-2018, 05:31 PM
kopek kopek is offline
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Nothing wrong with it at all, bless your heart.
  #24  
Old 04-15-2018, 05:46 PM
jaycat jaycat is offline
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Nowadays everything is offensive. It's best just to keep yr mouth shut.
  #25  
Old 04-15-2018, 05:54 PM
Nars Glinley Nars Glinley is offline
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However one answers the question, this kind of thing is not evidence of anything. In most situations, people in the minority have very good reasons to keep their reactions to themselves regardless of what else might be true.
Possibly, although this is a man who makes his living by giving his opinion of things.
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  #26  
Old 04-15-2018, 05:59 PM
k9bfriender k9bfriender is offline
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Nowadays everything is offensive. It's best just to keep yr mouth shut.
The commentator was being intentionally insulting, which means that offense is intended. I would agree with your sentiment in the case where you can't say anything nice, it is probably best to keep your mouth shut.

Whether the comment was racial in nature in such a way that it also insulted others is up for debate (I don't really think so), but whether it was intended to offend is pretty much a given.

So, maybe the lesson to be learned is that when you are insulting people in public, be careful about how you do it, as more than just the target of your insult may take offense. (Or maybe, just maybe, it's better not to do so at all.)
  #27  
Old 04-15-2018, 06:04 PM
Darren Garrison Darren Garrison is offline
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I don't know if it is really all that racist, but it most certainly is classist.

Not all the people picking cotton in the south were black, but they were all poor.

It's punching down, making fun of people who are not as well off as the people who didn't have to pick cotton.

The modern version I would say would be "burger flipper."
Or--just maybe--it could be used because it has the same cadance as "mother fucking", just as nonsense phrases can be substituted for other words or phrases.. (Shut the front door!)
  #28  
Old 04-15-2018, 06:19 PM
k9bfriender k9bfriender is offline
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Or--just maybe--it could be used because it has the same cadance as "mother fucking", just as nonsense phrases can be substituted for other words or phrases.. (Shut the front door!)
So does peanut planter.
  #29  
Old 04-15-2018, 06:19 PM
Guinastasia Guinastasia is offline
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Not racist, but probably just outdated.
  #30  
Old 04-15-2018, 06:20 PM
romadea romadea is offline
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Or--just maybe--it could be used because it has the same cadance as "mother fucking", just as nonsense phrases can be substituted for other words or phrases.. (Shut the front door!)
Racism and nonsense are not exactly mutually exclusive
  #31  
Old 04-15-2018, 06:45 PM
Nars Glinley Nars Glinley is offline
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The commentator was being intentionally insulting, which means that offense is intended. I would agree with your sentiment in the case where you can't say anything nice, it is probably best to keep your mouth shut.
It seems that Fox Sports (or the NBA) doesn’t like their videos out of their control so unfortunately, this is the best I can find. You be the judge of whether or not you think it was intentionally insulting. I don’t think it was.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ul13ULYRS1Y
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  #32  
Old 04-15-2018, 06:50 PM
kunilou kunilou is offline
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Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
Same here.

I really suspect that the literal meaning of the word is irrelevant, and it's used as a sanitized version of the similar-sounding word that starts with m-f.
I believe the euphemism you're thinking of is "chicken-flickin'."
  #33  
Old 04-15-2018, 06:57 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Originally Posted by jaycat View Post
Nowadays everything is offensive. It's best just to keep yr mouth shut.
If everyone is always finding offense with things you say, you should stop and consider that maybe everyone has a point.
  #34  
Old 04-15-2018, 07:08 PM
Aquadementia Aquadementia is offline
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I never took it that way myself, but what do I know.

"Cotton picking mind" doesn't sound nearly as harsh as "keep your cotton picking hands off."
Quote:
Originally Posted by k9bfriender View Post
I don't know if it is really all that racist, but it most certainly is classist.

Not all the people picking cotton in the south were black, but they were all poor.

It's punching down, making fun of people who are not as well off as the people who didn't have to pick cotton.

The modern version I would say would be "burger flipper."
I thought it maybe had something to do with being out in the sun too long. Or less strongly similar to 'gathering wool.'

something like 'twitter tweeting attention span" might be a modern alternative.
  #35  
Old 04-15-2018, 07:25 PM
ZipperJJ ZipperJJ is offline
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Originally Posted by Sattua View Post
It's one of those things that upsets some people, so I figure it's better and easier to just not say it. American English has no shortage of colorful turns of phrase. I can let that one go.

I agree with this. I don’t find it personally offensive but if it makes some people feel bad enough I’m willing to let it go. I’ve got other words I can use. I appreciate the correction.
  #36  
Old 04-15-2018, 07:27 PM
j666 j666 is offline
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I never thought of it as such, but I've also never used it. I can see the racist implication.

No relative of mine ever picked cotton, or owned anyone who do, so I will defer to those who think it racist, and never use a phrase I never use again.
  #37  
Old 04-15-2018, 07:30 PM
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Neither. My (white) mom grew up in the South, and used to tell me about her days of picking cotton as a teenager.
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  #38  
Old 04-15-2018, 07:37 PM
monstro monstro is offline
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It doesn't bother me, but I understand why it would someone else.
  #39  
Old 04-15-2018, 08:00 PM
Gary T Gary T is offline
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Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
I really suspect that the literal meaning of the word is irrelevant, and it's used as a sanitized version of the similar-sounding word that starts with m-f.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Darren Garrison View Post
Or--just maybe--it could be used because it has the same cadance as "mother fucking", just as nonsense phrases can be substituted for other words or phrases.
This is it. It has nothing to do with picking cotton, just as "mother fucking" doesn't actually refer to fornication with one's maternal parent.
  #40  
Old 04-15-2018, 08:47 PM
Dinsdale Dinsdale is offline
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Haven't used that phrase in a coon's age!
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  #41  
Old 04-15-2018, 09:00 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is offline
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It's a phrase I've taken out of my vocabulary, because of its racial overtones. It's similar, but milder than, "gyp": most folks who use "gyp" are completely unfamiliar with its racial origins, so I don't think less of someone for using the word, but if they learn its meaning and get super defensive, then I think a bit less of them.

"Cotton-pickin" seems to me to refer to lower-class Southern folks, and there's a real good chance it's referring to black Southern folks, given our history down here. Whether it's got a racial or a class-based origin as an insult, I don't see a need to use it.

"Grubby little" replaces it in like 99% of cases*: as in, "Get your grubby little hands out of the cookie batter, you little monster!"

* Here's where some super clever person comes along and thinks they're gonna satirize me by making a claim that "grubby little" is offensive. I'm ready to laugh uproariously at your wit!
  #42  
Old 04-15-2018, 09:51 PM
CairoCarol CairoCarol is offline
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I was told, as a little kid in Rochester, NY in the early 1960s, that the term was racist and offensive - just as I was taught I should say "catch a tiger by the toe," and not "catch a n****r by the toe."

Having said that, I would not ascribe a racist ideology to anyone just because they used the term. Even before I read this thread, I would assume that the term is now sufficiently outdated and infrequently used that someone might say it without having any idea that it was a no-no.

It seems to me that it is an easy enough term to avoid. Other than emphasis - sort of like "keep your gosh darn hands off of my pie!" - what meaning does it add to any sentence? None that I can pinpoint. So it should be easy enough to live without it. I'd feel differently if it filled an otherwise empty semantic niche and is now widely considered inoffensive, despite what I was taught as a kid.


.
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Last edited by CairoCarol; 04-15-2018 at 09:52 PM. Reason: I was repetitive, and repeated myself
  #43  
Old 04-15-2018, 09:52 PM
j666 j666 is offline
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Haven't used that phrase in a coon's age!
  #44  
Old 04-15-2018, 10:06 PM
Grumbacher Red Grumbacher Red is offline
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I don't know if it is really all that racist, but it most certainly is classist.

Not all the people picking cotton in the south were black, but they were all poor.

It's punching down, making fun of people who are not as well off as the people who didn't have to pick cotton.

The modern version I would say would be "burger flipper."
This is sort of what I came in here to say. It is very classist, especially as it became popular in the early 20th century.

If you were poor enough to have to pick cotton, it made your hands very rough, and therefore you shouldn't be touching anything fine, especially fine fabrics, as your hands would snag and pick delicate linens and things. Hence, "Get your cotton pickin' hands off that!" Tailors and dressmakers would never pick cotton, or anything else that would ruin their hands.

Quick aside: My ex-mother-in-law, who is now in her 70s, told me of having to pick cotton to earn enough money to buy her first bra. She grew up a sharecropper's daughter in South Georgia and was treated very badly by other kids at school because she was so poor. The woman has major unresolved self-esteem issues to this day, which unfortunately she transferred many of those to her son, which played a role in the demise of our marriage. Oh, she is white.

As for my personal experience with this phrase, in the 60s and 70s when I was very little and in adolescence, I would get told to "get my cotton pickin' hands" off something I shouldn't be touching. It was mostly understood to my age group as insinuating your hands were grubby or grimy.

Being out of "your cotton pickin' mind" is also an insinuation that you are out of your league, out of your place, and therefore don't know what you are talking about. Just another way of saying you are crazy, but nothing to do with race.

Last edited by Grumbacher Red; 04-15-2018 at 10:10 PM.
  #45  
Old 04-15-2018, 10:21 PM
Grumbacher Red Grumbacher Red is offline
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Haven't used that phrase in a coon's age!
This is one I heard adults say all the time, and I never thought it had anything to do with a slur against somebody.

It just made me wonder if raccoons lived a long time.
  #46  
Old 04-15-2018, 10:30 PM
BigT BigT is online now
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I likewise never thought of it as such, but can see how it would be. It's not a phrase I use often, but it just has cadence that can be quite nice in certain circumstances. However, it has so little meaning when I say it that I don't see any reason that can't be replaced.

The first thing that comes to mind is "stupid little," but, not being a fixed phrase, it kinda sounds more insulting to my ears. One that is a fixed phrase would be "dadblamed," but that doesn't have the rhythm. But it does have that old-timey feel, so I might use that.

Anything referencing picking cotton is going to have racial overtones, regardless of the fact that white people picked cotton. All this history diving misses the point.

Last edited by BigT; 04-15-2018 at 10:33 PM.
  #47  
Old 04-15-2018, 10:40 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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This is one I heard adults say all the time, and I never thought it had anything to do with a slur against somebody.

It just made me wonder if raccoons lived a long time.
They don't (a raccoon's life span is two or three years). But there used to be a folk belief that raccoon's had a long lifespan. Cite
  #48  
Old 04-15-2018, 10:58 PM
Gatopescado Gatopescado is offline
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Shocked at the results from this board.
  #49  
Old 04-16-2018, 12:31 AM
Hilarity N. Suze Hilarity N. Suze is offline
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I always think of this phrase as Eli Whitney's last words: "Get your cotton-picking hands off my gin!"

But why is it that every single word used to describe certain non-white people, or that could conceivably be applied to them, never mind that it's also applied to other people, eventually degrades and becomes some kind of a slur? Or viewed by some as a kind of slur?

When I played with the neighborhood kids when visiting my grandmother in Oklahoma they had a phrase they used, something to the effect of "last one in is a nigger tar baby!" I asked my grandmother what that meant. She told me it doesn't mean anything, but that one word was used as a bad way to describe colored people and the better word was Negroes, but that wasn't actually what the kids meant. (I still don't know what a tar baby is, really. I assume it originally meant something.)

Anyway--now the polite words are considered slurs. And words that meant other things are considered racial slurs. "Cotton-picking" is just a thing. You might as well say "dad-gummed." "Thugs" come in all colors.

Slightly off topic: I had heard "a coon's age." What my grandmother said, and I have never heard anyone outside our family use it, was "an owl's age." It seemed to be somewhat longer than a month of Sundays.
  #50  
Old 04-16-2018, 12:57 AM
Mr Zox Mr Zox is offline
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It's useful in this sort of discussion to have some historic background of facts. From the OED:

slang (orig. south. U.S.). A general term of disapproval or abuse, = ‘damned’.
1958 Post (N.Y.) 1 June M3 I don't think it's anybody's cotton-pickin' business what you're doing.
1968 J. Philips Hot Summer Killing (1969) iii. iii. 161 You have to be a hero or out of your cotton-picking mind.
1970 M. Kenyon 100,000 Welcomes xvii. 142 Damn Mickey McQuaid for ever bringing me to this pixilated, cotton-pickin' country.

Doesn't look like a racist origin at all, past the time when sharecropping was widely thought of, and not originally found in the South. Just a euphemism, after all. Though I think more likely based on m**ther-f**cking than ‘damned’
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