LINGUIST List 3.53

Tue 21 Jan 1992

Disc: Origins of "Honkie"

Editor for this issue: <>


Directory

  1. , Honkie
  2. "Randy J. LaPolla", Honkie
  3. Peter Salus, Re: 3.35 Swedish Linguists, Honkie, E-Prefix
  4. Allan C. Wechsler, 3.35 Honkie
  5. mark l louden, Re: 3.35 Swedish Linguists, Honkie, E-Prefix
  6. , Re: 3.35 Swedish Linguists, Honkie, E-Prefix
  7. , Honkie, Hunk, etc.

Message 1: Honkie

Date: 14 Jan 92 10:12 EST
From: <pchapinnsf.gov>
Subject: Honkie

Bruce Nevin writes:

>An friend of Czech extraction told me (30 years ago) that she thought
>"honkie" was from Slavic "hunky" (her pronunciation) meaning something
>like today's "hunk" (as in "Isn't he a gorgeous hunk!)--i.e. strong,
>virile man, borrowed into Black English in Chicago from probably
>Polish, there turned around as an epithet for white folks in general.
>Thence also honky-tonk?

A few years ago I read in a source which I believed to be
authoritative (don't remember what it was now) that "honkie" is indeed
from "Hunky", but that the latter term was a pejorative slang term for
Hungarians, or rather Americans of Hungarian descent, comparable to
"Polack" for Polish-Americans. Dennis Preston may know more about
this if he's listening.

"Honkie" started, or at least came to general attention, in the mid-
to late 60s. "Honky-tonk" is substantially older, going back at least
to the 40s, and I don't believe it was ever part of Black English
(though someone may have better information than I do). "Honky-tonk"
was a familiar word to me growing up as a white child in very
segregated south Texas in the late 40s.

Paul Chapin
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Message 2: Honkie

Date: Thu, 16 Jan 92 16:07 U
From: "Randy J. LaPolla" <HSLAPOLLAtwnas886.bitnet>
Subject: Honkie

In response to all the conjecture about the origin of 'honkie', I would
like to mention another possibility: Growing up in New York, it was my
understanding that 'honkie' originally referred to the white males that
drove through Harlem honking their horns at any black woman they saw
(assuming they were all hookers, I guess).

Randy LaPolla
Institute of History & Philology
Academia Sinica
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Message 3: Re: 3.35 Swedish Linguists, Honkie, E-Prefix

Date: Thu, 16 Jan 92 09:17:23 ESRe: 3.35 Swedish Linguists, Honkie, E-Prefix
From: Peter Salus <petersug.org>
Subject: Re: 3.35 Swedish Linguists, Honkie, E-Prefix

Regarding Henry's query on honky, I, too, have
thought it a "Central European"/Chicago-area
generalization, specifically hunyak 'Hungarian' > *honk > honky.

Peter
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Message 4: 3.35 Honkie

Date: Thu, 16 Jan 1992 10:51-0503.35 Honkie
From: Allan C. Wechsler <ACWYUKON.SCRC.Symbolics.COM>
Subject: 3.35 Honkie

I belong to a post-pejorative-ethnonym generation, but somewhere I heard
the word "bohunk". AHD claims this is a contraction of
"Bohemian/Hungarian", and is sometimes abbreviated further to "hunky".
It's tempting to claim this as an etymology of "honkie", but it would be
hard to verify. AHD's etymologies are usually pretty careful, and they
say "honkie" is "of obscure origin".

They say the same thing, by the way, about "copacetic"; I have, however,
heard a fanciful theory that blacks in NY learned this from Jews saying
"kol bseder", Heb. "everything is in order". I have no idea if that
theory has been substantiated.
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Message 5: Re: 3.35 Swedish Linguists, Honkie, E-Prefix

Date: Thu, 16 Jan 92 11:34:44 -0Re: 3.35 Swedish Linguists, Honkie, E-Prefix
From: mark l louden <loudenbongo.cc.utexas.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.35 Swedish Linguists, Honkie, E-Prefix

Re: the discussion on 'honkie'. I think Henry Kucera is correct in pointing
out the link between it and 'Hungarian'. H.L. Mencken lists three 'terms of
opprobrium' for Hungarians, 'bohunk' (also applied to Czechs), 'hunk' and
'hunkie'. I always heard that this originated in Cleveland rather than
Chicago, but don't have a reference for it.
Mark Louden
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Message 6: Re: 3.35 Swedish Linguists, Honkie, E-Prefix

Date: Thu, 16 Jan 1992 15:15 CSTRe: 3.35 Swedish Linguists, Honkie, E-Prefix
From: <FIONAkuhub.cc.ukans.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.35 Swedish Linguists, Honkie, E-Prefix

Regarding the origin of "honkie", I had never heard the Hungarian
hypothesis. I always thought it was from Wolof (West Atlantic) xonq
which means red. The term "xonq nopp" (red ears) is a playful way
of referring to whites. Also in Fula, the term is "wojja nofru", to
refer in the same manner to whites. I have no evidence, though, that
this is the real etymology. Anyone else?
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Message 7: Honkie, Hunk, etc.

Date: Sat, 18 Jan 92 11:02:22 MSHonkie, Hunk, etc.
From: <Randy_Allen_Harrismts.ucs.ualberta.ca>
Subject: Honkie, Hunk, etc.

A derogatory term for Slavic people on the West Coast of
Canada (maybe the whole country) in the fifties and sixties
was "Bo-hunk." I have no idea of the origins.
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