Hillbillies, hicks, Yaroms (Israel), bumpkins from the sticks: etymology similarities in kind?

I was told yesterday that in Israel a hick, a country bumpkin (add that to the etymology link…) is called a “yarom,” which I think is a man’s name, but I might be wrong. Which led me to wonder if “hillbilly” stems from the name “Bill/William” or just because a pronoun rhymes with “hill.”

Hix Nix Stix Pix is a classic, of course.

Which made me think about “from the sticks”–the (back) woods, I guess. And is hix a once-nonce rhyme?
ETA: Just noticed that “Once-nonce” is nice. As is “notice-once-nonce,” I know notice. :slight_smile:

Addendum: non US and non Israel contributions gladly accepted.

No one knows exactly how the term “hillbilly” originated. The “hill” part is obvious. It refers to the literal hills or mountains of Appalachia and the Ozarks. There are some theories on what the “billy” refers to but they aren’t conclusive.

“Scholars argue that the term “hillbilly” originated from Scottish dialect. The term “hill-folk” referred to people that preferred isolation from the greater society and “billy” meant “comrade” or “companion.” It is suggested that “hill-folk” and “billie” were combined when the Cameronians fled to the Highlands.[3]
Others have suggested the term originated in 17th century Ireland, during the Williamite War, when Protestant supporters of King William III (“King Billy”) were often referred to as “Billy’s Boys.” [4] Some scholars disagree with this theory. Michael Montgomery’s From Ulster to America: The Scotch-Irish Heritage of American English states, “In Ulster in recent years it has sometimes been supposed that it was coined to refer to followers of King William III and brought to America by early Ulster emigrants, but this derivation is almost certainly incorrect… In America hillbilly was first attested only in 1898, which suggests a later, independent development.”


Thanks. Interesting that “hillbilly” is so late attested, but it would make sense if the word was in circulation orally far longer than the normal lag between printed “attestation,” were it–and I don’t know–a term used by other hillbillies, far from written forms of vocabulary (“vocabular?” :)) abuse.

The specific country-bumpkin slur from a certain state, I think applied to others from other states, was the Okie, said by Californians about the Dust Bowl immigrants.–>
A: This may be false–ie, that it is not only a slur or maybe not at all; I’m winging it because for me, like most Americans, “The Grapes of Wrath” informs my historical sense; unless an Oklahoma farmer happily singing “I’m Just an Oakie from Miskokie” is what is called a “reapproriation” nowadays, like “queer” or “nigh,” or a forced appropriation, so to speak, so New York Broadway audiences felt happy that they were happy and didn’t mind it. “I’m Just a Jewboy from Perth Amboy”-kind of thing, in my as-yet unwritten musical set in New Jersey.

B: Another question, from A) “hillbilly” for Appalachian folk only? Pretty sure, but I might have heard it more generically applied.

Substitute “niggah” for the autocorrected “nigh” above.

Note that I wrote “the other hillbillies”–a slur used casually without quotes. Autocorrect hasn’t caught up to me, but I suppose I should receive criticism for dissing American citizens like you and me, and The Beverly Hills Hillbillies will go the way of the Cleveland Indians.

Hillbilly is a somewhat derogatory term so some people use it jokingly or insultingly to make fun of anyone from a supposedly backwards area especially mountainous areas. However the real definition refers to people from rural Appalachia and the Ozarks (northern Arkansas and parts of Missouri).

Those two areas are quite far apart in distance but they have similar settlement histories. Some of my family lives in northern Arkansas and there are some real hillbillies left just as there are pockets of them still around in Appalachia (West Virginia in particular but other states as well). There is a family of them that lives deep in the woods next to some undeveloped land we own that meets all the criteria on the checklist. My father told me very seriously never to go on their property or approach them at all because they aren’t of normal intelligence and they like to shoot and ask questions later. My aunt interviewed a old hillbilly couple once and made some recordings of their traditional music and it sounds exactly like you would guess.

The origin of the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies is never made clear. I always assumed the Clampetts were from Appalachian Tennessee but others insist they are from northern Arkansas or even southern Missouri. There is no real proof given.

Not exactly sure how this ties in, but in the TV show “Friday Night Lights” one character refers derisively to the new coach, who is from Tennessee, as a “hill runner.”

The politically correct term for hillbilly is “Appalachian American”. It’s even written into some laws. I’m from Kentucky and have one leg longer that the other which makes it easier to stand on hills.


I thought that ‘Hillbilly’ referred to West Virginians. From the old Billy Yank and Johnny Reb. Virginia seceded from the Union but the hill folk declined, thus making the Hill-Billies.

That is one theory but it isn’t supported by much. There certainly were and are real hillbillies in West Virginia (watch the documentary Dancing Outlaw about the White family sometime - they are considered hillbilly royalty) but the term is also common in other areas. I went to northern Arkansas in August and they claim ownership to the term as much as any place. Deliverance was set in Georgia so it doesn’t appear to be quite that state specific.

I honestly always thought that the origin of the term was self-evident and doesn’t require a convoluted explanation at all. My assumption was that the ‘billy’ referred to billy-goats and it was a reference to fleet-footed people that could live in isolation on terrain that was unsuitable to everyone else. However, that was just my assumption and I have never seen that explanation supported anywhere else either.

You were told wrong. Yoram - indeed, an old-fashioned male name - is an outdated term for “nerd”, or a generally uncool person. It has nothing to do with being a hick or country bumpkin, which are concepts that do not really exist in Israel.

In fact, if anything, people from agricultural communities - the kibbutzniks and *moshavniks *- are considered arrogant and overconfident, and not at all ignorant. Unsophisticated, sure, but to an Israeli that’s an admirable quality. Maybe it’s because of of Israel’s unique history, but farmers have never been considered “peasants”. In fact, Jewish farmers are never actually referred to by the Hebrew word for “farmer” (ikkar); instead, they’re called haklayim, or “agriculturalists”. Remember, Jews came from the cities and started farms, and not the other way around.


That’s what happens when talking about language having 10 words of Hebrew with someone who has five words of English.

Of course, Jews weren’t farmers in Europe since forever, what with not being allowed to own land.

Jewish cowboys in 19th c. America, besides the farmers-- that’s a whole nother thing.

I wonder who Yoram was. Maybe friends with Poindexter.

Every version I know in Spanish or Catalan labels the person in question as being “from a small village”, “from the provinces” (you know, just like the English provincial’s 3b) or “from a small, isolated farm”, all of them quite literally.

In Ireland there are terms such as culchie, bogger, and muck savage used to describe people from outside Dublin (and other cities).

Did you post the examples in Spanish and I missed it?

A year or so ago it came up, and I was stumped, when I was speaking Spanish and wanted to diss somebody as just-off-the-boat, and only came up with “farmer,” and it didn’t make sense at all.

Of course, the derivation of the word strongly affects its history and current usage: class distinctions, urban/agricultural imagery, all operate at different times and with different groups.

Not being a peasant was not only an insult but a ticket to being murdered, under certain Communist vocabularies.

Along those lines, calling someone a “peasant” in the US is odd and affected (not that it can’t be used as such effectively); but it is never thought about any much at all as a current American thing, no matter for how poor or countrified a person is. It’s Old World. Interesting that “bourgeois,” a word from equally foreign birthplaces, has been assimilated so readily as “middle class.”

But of course the American confusion/rejection-at-least in one ideal back-and-forth with “class” as a named thing is sui generis.

In Swedish, “bonnjävel” literally means “peasant devil,” whereas “lantis” is derived from the word for countryside. Both are mildly derogatory.

In Danish, “bonderøv” literally means “peasant ass,” again somewhat derogatory but not wildly so. (An unexpected hit show on TV called simply “Bonderøven” features an enthusiastic young farmer doing his thing around the farm - I hear he is now practically drowning in love letters from women all over the country.)

In Ecuador, the word montubio is used as a general, slightly derogatory term for a country bumpkin. I cheerfully used it for years, assuming it was a derivation of the word monte (grass).

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that the montubios are actually a small, rather oppressed indigenous people of Ecuador. I had essentially been calling people dirty injuns for years. :eek:

Yes. It especially refers to people from rural Appalachia or the Ozarks who are of Scottish or Irish background via the migrations from Ulster and environs. This is discussed in David Fischer’s book Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. The Celtic connection is where you get many of the hillbilly folk traditions such as feuding, a love for weapons, whiskey distilling, and playing and singing Celtic music.

The term Redneck is frequently used to refer to rural, politically conservative, frequently uneducated white people from non-mountainous areas of the South, especially the Deep South. The term is generally understood to refer to the sunburns that white people often get when working in the fields of the South, implying that the people who have those sunburns have them because they are so poor or uneducated that they have to do farm labor for a living. There is also a less-favored explanation that ties the term Redneck to the red bandannas worn by Scottish Covenanters (supporters of Presbyterianism as opposed to the Church of England).