Wednesday, August 09, 2006

'Yankee': Slur or term of pride?

Is the term “Yankee” an insult that should be retired from polite company except when referring to a baseball team?

J.P. Russell of Lake Wylie wrote a letter to the Observer saying he thinks so – “It makes you feel unwelcome,” he said during a recent interview. Russell was born in Ohio and has heard the term used to refer to non-Southerners in many places he has lived, including the 10 years he spent in Florida before moving here last year.

According to “The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins,” the source of the word is disputed and could have come from Native Americans or the Dutch. British began using it as a term for Americans during the French and Indian War. During the Revolutionary War, the British considered the word derogatory, but Americans adopted the nickname and made it a term of pride – particularly in New England.

During the Civil War and beyond, many Southerners used the term “Damn Yankee” as a derogatory reference for Northerners, and the reference has continued to pop up from time to time – including, Russell says, at meetings of community groups he has
attended recently.

There’s a well-sourced entry on the origins of the term at Wikipedia.

What do you think? Is “Yankee” a slur or a term whose history is often misunderstood? Please e-mail me your thoughts at Ldyer@charlotteobserver.com with your contact information.

77 Comments:

Anonymous Katherine said...

Whenever I use the term "Yankee" I mean it to be a slur. When I say "damn Yankee" I mean those from the northern climes that move here. Archaic? Maybe, but in my mind it's how I feel.

1:23 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

I don't understand how Yankee can be a slur. Redneck is a slur - I don't know how anyone can be proud to be a redneck. Call us Yankees all you want - it's not offensive.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, name calling like Yankee is pretty lame. We are all Americans now anyways. Plus, Yankee isn't even a slur, atleast not to me. If you can't get over a stupid war that happened years ago (um, hello - none of us today have anything to do with it - it's history - it's over), then you are a sad individual.

3:03 PM  
Anonymous Nick said...

I find it funny how some people here blame "Yankees" for everything, when people from California, GEORGIA, FLORIDA, and TEXAS are moving here too. Are they also considered "Yankees"? Do you not see how stupid all of this is? All it shows is your ignorance.

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Kara said...

For most, Yankee is a term of pride, not a slur. And if you are one of those ignorant people who use it as a slur, I don't want to be associated with you anyways, so I could care less.

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Oscar said...

Being a redneck isn't conducive to any single area of the country.
The term originally applied to "country" people that worked as farmers.
When someone is referred to as a "yankee" or a "damn yankee" by a southerner, it is meant to be a slur.

3:07 PM  
Anonymous mike said...

I know Oscar, but why would a "Yankee" care what a southerner says or thinks is offensive? It is only a southern thing, not an American thing. Most people associate the term Yankee with the baseball team or as an American (if your from Europe). Yankee is only a derogatory term in the south, and like I said, who cares? If it's meant to be offensive, it's not... sorry...

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nobody sees how childish this is???

3:14 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Articles like this make me wonder why people even bother moving here in the first place. Thats why I'm going back to "Yankeeland" this fall for college. This is so stupid...

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Emma said...

People must look at this article and laugh. Katherine, your mind is messed up.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan, do you need help packing your carpetbag for your little trip?

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Yeah, maybe I can throw it in the back of yur pick up truck a-hole.

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow Dan, talk about name calling!! Must have touched a nerve.

3:24 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

I still do not get why people want to move here....

I feel bad for the people who just moved here and have to read this. Clue: The grass isn't always greener on the otherside.

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's sad how some people here dislike others because of what region they are from. These are probably the same people who go to church and send their kids to Vacation Bible School.

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate the Charlotte Observer. Every month or so there has to be an article about "Northerners" or "Yankees" like they are the only ones moving here and they are terrible people. More people are moving here from Texas and just as many from Georgia, California, Florida, etc and you don't hear anything about them. Get over it and report the real news.

3:32 PM  
Anonymous President Bushtard said...

YANKEE DOODLE WENT TO TOWN RIDING ON A PONY PUT A FEATHER IN HIS MOUTH AND CALLED IT MACARONI!!!!!!!!!

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AMERICAN BY BIRTH
SOUTHERN BY THE GRACE OF GOD

3:43 PM  
Anonymous AJ said...

Not everyone believes in GOD.

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Jen said...

Does that mean if your not southern, your not worthy of "God's grace"? Um, OK.

Hint: Your not anymore special than anyone else.

3:49 PM  
Anonymous matt said...

GOD should of graced you with a brain.

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If only Charlotte wasn't so close to South Carolina...

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been the only white guy on playground basketball courts and heard blacks using the N-word more times in an hour than I've heard the rest of my life combined.

I've heard women refer to each other as that word that rhymes with witch a million times too.

I've seen Northerners proud to be called Yankees.

But I've also seen and heard those same words spit out like vile, with incredible hatred behind them.

I suspect Yankee isn't a term of endearment most of the time...but I don't expect the Observer to stop using it in headlines to sell newspapers.

After all, most of the people buying the Observer now are Yankees, aren't they?

5:30 PM  
Anonymous Kenny Billy said...

back yonder i useded to fry up dem yankys in bread'n sauce and eat em up. bails of hay ain't no more cummin down southern nways yall! hootnannays!!!!! yankkeees whoot at south park mall yall. yankee means condo, and i like my homes doublewide on wheels yall, hootnannysssss

6:41 PM  
Anonymous dolly parton said...

Dan, do you need help packing your carpetbag for your little trip?
Dan, do you need help packing your carpetbag for your little trip?
Dan, do you need help packing your carpetbag for your little trip?
Dan, do you need help packing your carpetbag for your little trip?
YEEEEHAWW YALL WE GOIN DOWN TO THE WALLYMART TO BUY DEM SUM CARPETS AND BAGS YALL HOOTNANNYS college, wuts that!? I <3 PICK UPS yall hootttynanners HOT NANNERWS

6:44 PM  
Anonymous the pope said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:51 PM  
Anonymous Neiman Marcus said...

I think yankee is russian for "smoked cheese"

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Barbra said...

Has anyone ever noticed the palm trees in front of steak 'n shake? They are quite lovely, and planted by a 'yankee'.

7:09 PM  
Anonymous WedgeNC said...

I love being a Yankee here in Charlotte because almost everyone else is too.

I would enjoy being called a Yankee more if I was not such a Red Sox fan. I like "Damn Yankee" better because I assume that they are talking about my home, while all I think about is Derek Jeter.

7:47 PM  
Anonymous frederico said...

To me living here in the south, it represents lingering malevolence from Civil War days. To me, when someone calls me a "yankee," its like flying the confederate flag. I thought the war was long over, but if sides need to be taken, then call me a Yankee, ya reb'!

6:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This native Charlottean doesn't want ANYBODY else moving here, not just Yankees. Transplants from all places are the ones who cause our schools and our roads to be crowded. You people move here and then you complain about the traffic and the overcrowded schools when you are the ones causing it! Don't you get it? There are enough people here. I want my Southern heritage and dialect protected for future generations but our Charlotte society has become so infused with other cultures and other regions it's hopeless. And don't tell me you would like people moving to where you are from. You wouldn't like it either. Just like I don't. The truth is--we don't want you here.

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This kind of Blogs is stupid and they only promote racial cat fights. Such topics are an embarrassment. What international city's major news paper posts such foolishness? Topics like this will hinder Charlotte's chance of becoming a real world class city.

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey native Charlottean - there are plenty of small towns in NC you can move to if thats what you want. THIS native Charlottean enjoys the different cultures - it makes for a much more interesting place. I say keep em coming! There is nothing wrong with having one or two large cities in NC where you can experience different cultures. Ignorant comments like yours make me ashamed.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is it whenever people from the northern parts of this wonderful country talk in a negative way about Southerners, they always make fun of the way we talk? Is it because that's the first thing that is thought of? From all parts of the USA we speak with different accents. Not just Southerners. It is just so ignorant to stoop to trying to type the words like they sound to you. Grow up and accept the differences with grace and dignity.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charlotte might be a "nice place" but the majority of people suck!

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not all southern accents are annoying - some are quite nice - but STRONG ones sound really stupid. And it's not just people from "northern parts" who make fun of southern accents - everyone in the country does.

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Dubya said...

Leigh Dyer is a fathead!

10:10 AM  
Anonymous michael said...

You know what SOME of you southerns need to learn: You don't live in a bubble. There is an entire world out there. Get out, learn, and experience it, especially if your going to make ignorant comments about things you know nothing about.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Leigh said...

Hi everyone - I appreciate that many of you have made thoughtful comments. Please keep the discussion civil. And if you have questions or concerns, please feel free to e-mail me.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Grace said...

You're right Michael, we don't live in a bubble and experiencing other cultures can be wonderful. But shouldn't we respect each others differences? Name calling is such a waste of energy. Life is too short to go around being miserable all the time. I am a middle aged Southern woman and while I am proud of my culture I also appreciate the differences that have come to us from other parts of the country. I don't believe we would have all the wonderful restaurants and entertainment here if it weren't for our mixed cultures. Let's all try to be more tolerant.

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charlotte a WORLD CLASS CITY? How can it be world class when it has a hard time accepting people from within this country, let alone the world, because it will ruin the "southern heritage". HAHA - anyone who calls this place world class needs a smack in the face.

It's too bad because the place has potential - it's the people here who ruin it.

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

See, I like people like Grace. Why can't there be more of you here!

Honestly Grace, that was one of the best comments on here so far.

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Grace said...

Thank you anonymous for saying that about my comment. I meant every word of it. I grew up on cotton mill village living in a company owned house. Talk about the culture shock that a lot of people today would experience by stepping back in time to see that kind of living. My point is that if someone like me who grew up in that kind of environment can accept the wonderful differences in our lives, then why can't everyone?

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a native North Carolinian who grew up in a neighboring county, I moved to Charlotte in the late 70s. I can honestly say that with almost no exceptions, every person I have worked with or had any lengthy experience with who was from the Northeast, the Midwest, or the West coast, has been interesting and delightful. I have learned a lot from my "Yankee" friends. I've certainly tried to put the best foot forward in welcoming them and appreciating and respecting the differences in opinions. Works for me.

11:43 AM  
Anonymous Florabora said...

I'm from Connecticut (remember a Connecticut Yankee in King Arther's Court?). My backwoods relatives (yes, there is a poor part of CT) - were known as "swamp yankees." I've always thought of "Yankee" as more of a term for native (well, those who've lived there for over 200 years) New Englanders/New Yorkers - not just as a slur. Yankee was known as a rebel to the British - during the rev war.

My husband is from the midwest. It confused me to no end when native Tar Heels refer to him as a "Yankee" - no way! he's a Hoosier! I'm the Yankee!!!!

12:00 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

I know you are, but what am I?

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have never been to Germany and seen cars driving around with bumper stickers that claim their proud Nazi heritage.

1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay -- I am married to a Yankee and I am a Southerner. He does not get offended and has never considered it an offense to be called a Yankee. I on the other hand moved to Long Island with him for 4 years. I was called a racist, bigot, inbred, hick, etc. So?? If you get offended by being called a Yankee or Damn Yankee - think about what you call Southerners. And if you move here no matter where you are from - remember - can't we all just get along?

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Big damn deal. Don't be so sensitive. Some people would probably use it more if they knew it bothered people. I give you permission to call me a stupid redneck. It is only somebody's opinion.

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay everyone. I was born and raised on Long Island. I moved to Miami for about 3 years and then to Charlotte. I've been here for 20 years. I love the city and the weather. I must say it has gotten a lot better over the past 5 years. We now have a lot more choices as far as shopping, restaurants and clubs go. With the White Water Center ready to open and the beaches and mountains a short drive away who could ask for more ?
I could !
Stop the arguing !
I moved uptown 3 years ago and it was the best thing I ever did. If you are from the North and feel like you just can't take it anymore down South then give uptown living a shot. Most of the people that live uptown are from all over the country and the world. With a huge amount of them being from the North. It's almost like your'e not in the South anymore. You also have great places like Dilworth, SouthEnd, NoDa and Elizabeth surrounding it.
When I was growing up in L.I. I remember a few kids that moved there from the South. No one ever gave them any trouble or called them childish names. The girls always loved their accents. They were, for the most part, easy going and everyone got along just fine.
As far as Rednecks go. We have them in N.Y. too. We call them Guido's as well as Rednecks.
They both describe individuals of ignorant beliefs.
It's no different, North or South, there are jerks everywhere.
Like other posters have said "We are all one big country".
GET ALONG !

2:25 PM  
Anonymous Robert Edward Lee said...

Well, I just want everyone to know that I really liked smoked cheese!

7:19 PM  
Anonymous General Andrew Jackson said...

I have a man crush on Derek Jeter.

10:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is funny when I'm called that. I just laugh it off and say thanks hillbilly.

8:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't we all just get along? Oh wait. Someone already said that. The point is that we spend far too much time looking for and exploiting our differences, getting offended by each other and being divided and far too little time strengthening the things that should unite us. The Civil War ended 140 years ago. We're Americans, citizens of the UNITED States. Now more than ever we should act that way.

7:54 AM  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

If a professional baseball team proudly calls themselves the Yankees, then why would it be offensive?

Secondly, what are the people from Georgia, Louisiana, Florida (LOTS OF THEM NOW), Tennessee, Kentucky and all of the other states I see license plates from in my parking lot called?

It's funny, there's just as many southern folk back where I am from that came there for jobs than there is here. No one seems bothered by it.

10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is starting to remind me of the illegal immigrant debate. Are new people welcome or not? Hmm...that's one to ponder. Maybe they should require special permits and paperwork to cross state lines, too.

10:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can say one thing for certain, and that is when I see people around town behaving badly, I am never surprised to find out that they are Yankees. Yankees go home.

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Paula Abdul said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:01 PM  
Anonymous Billy Graham said...

I can say one thing for certain...

your a southern moron.

8:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the person who said "If only Charlotte wasn't so close to South Carolina," believe me, (some) North Carolinians are doing a fine job of making fools of themselves without the help of us South Carolinians.

5:24 AM  
Anonymous HOOTNANNYYS!!!!! said...

Hi. I live in SC and as someone who has lived in several different southern states I must say, South Carolina is by far the scariest place in this country (It's also the dumbest). Blue laws? Why don't they just make women wear burkas and chain them to the house? Jesus called, he really doesn't care about your stupid churches on Sundays! BAKOFJFOKLAJJL!!!!!

4:53 PM  
Blogger carolina said...

The reason why people in the South still talk about a war over a hundred years ago is this:

Most of the civil war was fought in the South. Shermans march to the sea wasnt exactly the best "pr" move and he certainlywasnt trying to win the hearts and minds of Southerners either. Homes and entire cities were burned to the ground. Therefore much of the South layed in ruins after the war. The North was largely unaffected.

The Southern economy was decimated after the war. It did not begin to recover until the second world war.

During reconstruction, Northern troops were here mainly to see its policies in the South were implemented and to protect its Northern politicians the North installed in the South.

Many Southerners experience of Northerners came from those who came South to take advantage of the war torn country. These Northerners were called carpetbaggers.

After the war, the North could forget about the war, it wasnt nearly as affected as the South. Southerners however continued to endure its affects long after the war ended.

That is why many in the South still remember and reflect on it. Maybe this sheds some light on the issue.

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Emma that Katherine has backward thinking. If people have problems with people moving from the North to there town I think they are stuck in time. I really like North Carolina and would like for my children to grow up here and they are Yankees and we are proud of where we came from and no one is going to offend us with there immature backward thinking.

1:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree with anonymout about transplants, if it wasn't for us the job growth would exist and different cultures wouldn't be introduced it would be pretty boring, but what ever you have to say. We always have transplants were I am from and it's nice to know that there are people from different places makes it more interesting, not BORING.

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HOOTNANNYYS, you obviously don't live in SC, or you're not very knowledgeable about the state you live in at all. Blue laws are not statewide laws; they vary from county to county. By the way, if you live in York County, make sure you show up at the polls in November to make sure you vote for the allowance of alcohol sales on Sundays.

And the dumbest state in the Union is Arizona: http://www.morganquitno.com/edrank.htm

1:10 AM  
Blogger ncgopgirl said...

to the whom ever wrote 4:03pm comment ..
the fact that you call the War of NORTHERN Aggression .. Stupid .. confirms the fact that you are indeed a Yankee .. because that is the rudest comment Ive heard in a while !

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To NCGOPGirl,

every time I've ever heard the Civil War referred to as the war of Northern Aggression, it's been a bigoted southerner who's said it.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I moved to Charlotte about 5 years ago from NYC. Several people here have called me Yankee in a derogative, nasty way.(ususally in a parking lot or standing in line).

Guess what? I ignore them and go on with life. What is the point of this blog???

11:54 AM  
Blogger U.S.Grant said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:25 AM  
Blogger U.S.Grant said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:26 AM  
Anonymous esther said...

heyy yall!^^ i didn't mind to read the commments ( and probably won't come bak here anyways *cough*) but i want you guys to know that im a person from the north side and we yankees as you call us really dont get offended by that. i mean we have a baseball team named after the Yankees.....im sure you've heard of them and they're probably even gonna make it to the leagues. but people here dont even mention the word yankee bcuz its so ancient i guess. but if u mention the word ever1'll probably think you were some mentally challenged person or some crazy fan of the baseball team, you know. (haha)!c ya guys hav a lot of fun chattin^^

10:14 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

If it weren't for northerners there wouldn't be any job growth? Do you think all of these marvelous banks were imported from New York? Bank of America, Wachovia, Lending Tree are, for the most part, manned with graduates of UNC. I grew up in Eastover so I can assure you there was plenty of wealth before you guys, allegedly, dragged us kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

3:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To SC hater:
You are ridiculous... you have no pride in where you have come from. I am from Charleston SC, and you will discover that people from ALL over come to visit for the history and beauty of it all. (PS just got voted in the top 10... best places to live and for being the most polite.)

Charleston has a lot of transplants as well, and I we welcome them with open arms. BECAUSE IT IS A GROWING CITY... like Charlotte. We are not so stupid to think that diversity is a bad thing. So, now a note from Charlotte-transplant from Charleston... Come on transplants! True southerners know better than to speak like some "southerners" on this blog.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bank of America came from Ohio down to NC. Wachovia merged with First Union which was previously headquartered up in Philadelphia. As you can see with the comments above, some southerners are still bitter about the Civil War. Just imagine the hatred we'll be causing for generations over in Iraq. Yankee can be rude or just a term to describe where someone was from. It's the venom that someone says it with.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bank of America came from Ohio down to NC. Wachovia merged with First Union which was previously headquartered up in Philadelphia. As you can see with the comments above, some southerners are still bitter about the Civil War. Just imagine the hatred we'll be causing for generations over in Iraq. Yankee can be rude or just a term to describe where someone was from. It's the venom that someone says it with.

It must hurt your Yankee pride to know that we took over your banks. Bank of America was acquired (officially they merged but ask yourself who got control and who was pushed out?) by NationsBank, which was formerly North Carolina National Bank. First Union was founded in Charlotte as Union National Bank.

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cannot we all just get a long.
The Yankees are a professional sports
team.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvte1qOgKVY&feature=related

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I moved to SC from the north all I heard was that I'm a Yankee and it was "weird" for me to be down there. Guess this state is not interested in moving forward from the 1800's?

7:27 AM  

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