The Etymology of Hate
Social Issues/ Spring
(Instructor's note 8/18/05: a surprising number of
you have e-mailed me about perceived glaring inaccuracies of the definitions
provided. "Way back" when The Cultural Lexicon was first employed (Spring
2001), students were just beginning to employ the internet to do research. The
purpose of this exercise was also for them to determine the legitimacy of
certain sites for deriving valid sources of information. During classroom
discussions, we frequently analyzed the etymology of such words as "Picnic" and
learned how to tease out the differences between the historical development of
such terms compared to urban legend. When reading these definitions, one
should not consider this to be a reliable source of genuine, factual
information but view this more as an insight into an experiential exercise to
gain a sense of how words become part of a culture.
The definitions listed arose from class discussions and annotated
bibliographies submitted by you. References are listed whenever
ANTI-SEMITISM a prejudice or discrimination against Jews,
based on negative perceptions of their religious beliefs or on
negative group stereotypes. Anti-Semitism can also be a form of
racism, as when Nazis and others consider Jews an inferior
- A poor, white person in some parts of the southern United
States who, perhaps, could only afford to eat crackers.
- The most common explanation for the origin of this phrase is
that it is from corncracker, or someone who distills corn whiskey
(cracking corn is to crush it into a mash for distillation). The
song lyric "Jimmy Crack Corn" is a reference to this. In the song
a slave sings about his master got drunk, fell, hit his head, and
died. And the slave "don't care." The usage, however, is probably
not the origin of the term cracker.
- More likely is that it is from an early sense of crack meaning
to boast. This sense dates to the 16th century. A 1766 quote in
the OEO2 gives the origin of cracker as boastful. (The American
Heritage Dictionary of the English Language)
- a small firework
- a slang term used by 19th century Georgian slaves to refer to
the cracking of the slavemaster's whip.
- a white person (Dictionary of Afro-American Slang by
DAMN: Middle English (dampnen), from Old French (dampner),
from Latin (damnare), from damum damage, loss, fine (13th Century).
Expression of annoyance, disgust or surprise; to condemn to a
punishment; to bring ruin on (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate
- Slang term for an effeminate, homosexual male.
- A bundle of sticks. During the European Inquisition in the
14th century, witches were burned at the stake. When the bundles
of sticks diminished, Homosexuals males were thrown on the fire to
keep it burning.
- Derived from the 16th century Italian word fa(n)gotto meaning
a disagreeable woman
- Possibly dervived from the Yiddish word, fagele, meaning
- Burden or baggage
FUCK: originally recorded in German as early as the 12th
century from "ficken" (to strike). First recorded in English in the
15th century. Its first occurrence; in a poem entitled, "Fenflyys"
written sometime before 1500 in code, illustrating the
unacceptability of the word even then. It satirized the Carmelite
friars of Cambridge, England. Once decoded, the first line of the
poem reads:"They are not in heaven because they fuck wives of Fly (a
town near Cambridge)."
- to have sexual intercourse with
- to victimize
- used in the imperative as a signal of angry dismissal
- (urban legend): For Unlawful Carnal
Knowledge was an upshot of Victorian England's need for
euphemisms. When porstitutes were arrested the good constables, in
the interest of expediency, began entering F.U.C.K. in their
HOMOPHOBIA: a prejudice against homosexuals (gays and
lesbians) which can lead to discrimination and violence against
homosexuals or people perceived as homosexual.
- A donkey. Mississippi farmer Dan Grogen was credited with
using this term in 1939
- an insult (Webster's Dictionary, 1992).
- from the Yiddish kikel~ a circle; the mark used by some
illiterate Jewish immigrants rather than a cross-when signing
papers at Ellis Island
- from kieken: to peep and linked to Jewsih American
clothes manufacturers who 'peeped' at smarter European fashions
and produced mass-market knockoffs, popular among their poor
customers (Words Apart:The Language of Prejudice by
- vulgarity referring to a Jewish person originally coined by
the German Jews to use against Russian Jews. It comes from the "k"
sound at the end of many Russian Jewish names such as Lewinsky or
Lencoff. (from Etymologically Speaking by Steven
NIGGER: The obsolete spelling "niger" dates back to 1574
dervied from the Latin word meaning black
- comes from the Latin root for black. The word was used in both
England and America around the 17th century. Around 1825,
abolitionists and blacks began feeling the word was hurtful to
them. After the Civil War, the word "nigger" became the most
commonly used term to describe the blacks. Even though the word
was at first not meant to offend, such powerful white men as
George Conrad continually used it during public speaking and
argued that the word was not meant to be offensive.
- Phonetic spelling of the white southern pronunciation of
- Term used by African captives to describe themselves, in many
cases without attaching a stigma to the word.
- Internet lore (and perhaps folklore prior to the internet) has
the origin of this word as lynching party for blacks in the
American South, originally deriving from the phrase pick an
nigger. This is absolutely incorrect. The word's origins have
no racial overtones whatsoever. In actuality, it derives from the
French pique-nique meaning the same thing as it does in
English-an outing that includes food. Pique is either a reference
to a leisurely style of eating ("as in pick at your food") or its
reference to selective delicacies chosen for the outing. Nique is
a nonsense syllable chosen to rhyme. The word appears in English
as early as 1748 in reference to picnics in Germany. The word did
not gain widespread use in Britain until Britain until c.1800.
- French word, pique-nique, which first appeared at the end of
the seventeenth century. It referred to a fashionable type of
social entertainment in which each person who attended brought a
share of food.
RACISM: a prejudice or discrimination based on the belief
that race is the primary factor determining human traits and
abilities. Racism holds that genetic, or inherited, differences
produce the inherent superiority or inferiority of one race to
RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY: a prejudice or discrimination against
all members of a particular religious group based on negative
perceptions of their religious beliefs and practices or on negative
SEXISM: a prejudice or discrimination based on gender
- coined around the beginning of the 20th century, referring to
Spaniards, Italians, Mexicans, Filipinos, Pacific Islanders and
Latin Americans and Mediterraneans in general; appears to come
from the phrase "no spicka da English"; additional theories link
it to spaghetti, the stereotypical Italian food.
- a person from Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Spain. Derogatory
- of Spain and its languages, also spelled "Spick"
WHORE: to associate or have sexual relations with
prosititutes, to accept payment in exchange for sexual relations. The
common Germanic word horaz had the underlying meaning of "one who
desires" and/or "adulterer". (American Heritage
- comes from the word "guapo" (Spanish)/ "guappo" (Italian)
meaning handsome. The word came to mean handsome scoundrel