Honky

Without denying the possible other roots given in the article, there is another simpler one which was indirectly explained to me by a Black friend.

Back in high school, when the term began to gain currency, I asked my friend Larry if he would enlighten me about the term. Larry looked at me for a while, obviously starting to speak on several occasions. He finally said “If you don’t already know, I couldn’t possibly explain it.” :rolleyes:

Fast-forward several years. I’m listening to myself on a recording. I think to myself “Gosh I sound honky.” Cue floating light bulb. :smack:

Persons of European descent, more-or-less equal to “White”, tend to have longer nasal passages than other races and sound - all together now - Honky.

Welcome to the Boards, **MacLir[//b]. It’s usually helpful to link to the column so that others can read along. You can cut and paste the link or pretty it up by using vBulletin code
What’s the origin of “honky”?

That column was done in 1988, eons ago in terms of etymological research, but Cecil probably got it right the first time. And that, despite the fact he cited Robert Hendrickson, a great source of misinformation in the word origins racket.

I’d love to see a scientific link to your assertions. You may well be correct–I’d just love to see it.

Oh, yeah, one more thing–the suggestion at the update to Cecil’s column that it may have derived from the West African Wolof language and been brought by black slaves--------it is to laugh. Wolof derivations are mostly bogus, but there are words that do come from the language. Just not this one.

The term may well have been sparked by “bohunk” and had a folk etymology applied in areas where Polish immigrants were rather thin on the ground, nonetheless, getting it from a black person (in about 1970) carries a certain cachet, to me.

I am unaware of any physionomic research on nose size (bet there is some somewhere - scientists LOVE to measure things) beyond simple observation of any random sample of humanity. And of course the key word is “tend” - no great effort is needed to find outliers.

Thanks for responding.

Your black friend didn’t really explain what he meant by the term in 1970, did he? He just cryptically said “If you don’t already know,…”

I think your black friend was referring to the emergence of the term in the mid-1960s by black militants, calling whites “honkies.” I really doubt he thought that whites spoke nasally and sounded like geese. Just my guess.

Thanks for posting. It an interesting thread for commenter.

What insight. I’d like to subscribe to your newsletter.

And here all this time I thought it had something to do with honky-tonks, referred to as far back as the late 1800s.

In Africa the “Koubajee” pronounced like it reads, is the term used by Black Christians in South Sudan for white men. I was in villages where we were the first white men they had ever seen. Little black children running around naked as jay birds was the average way of life there.

Never gave it much thought, but wouldn’t “honky tonk” have some relation to “honky?” Or not…?

No one knows the roots of “honky-tonk” (apart from the fact that early examples spell it “honkatonk”), but it doesn’t seem ever to have carried racial or ethnic baggage.

Not really.

“Honky” as a Black English term for a white person only can be found from the 1940s.

“Honky Tonk” or “honka-tonk” to mean a dive bar goes back to at least 1889 and is probably just a rhyming term. The original ones had not only liquor but prostitutes.

Actually, that’s pretty much exactly the etymology that I recall being peddled in the '70s. Accurate or not, it was certainly commonly accepted.

A book I read, by either Pete Seeger or Guy Carawan, said that singing Civil Rights demonstrators often faced opponents sounding their car horns to drown them out. They became known as “honkers,” and eventually “honkies.”
It seems a more direct derivation.

EXcept-------Civil rights demonstrators were mostly in the 1950s-1960s.

The term “honkie” in Black English goes back to the 1940s.