According to an OED editor-at-large, it derives from an African-American
pronunciation of a disparaging term for a Hungarian laborers; what epithet is
Etymology, Etymology, and more Etymology
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consists of tough questions about the nuances of the English language.
Many philologists claim that the word
honky derives from the Wolof
honq, of light complexion. According to Jesse
Sheidlower in his article Crying Wolof, it
actually derives from an African-American pronunciation of
hunky, a disparaging term for Hungarian
laborers. The first recorded use of the word honky "as an insulting term for a white person is found
only in the 1950s."
Crying Wolof -- Does the word hip really hail from a West
African language? By Jesse Sheidlower (http://slate.msn.com/id/2110811/)
I grew up in
Detroit, where the term seemed to mean a guy who 'honked' at the ever-present
hookers on Cass Avenue. Some local philologists claimed that this was the
origin of 'honkey'.
I would be
surprised to find your
'Hunky' theory to be true... what part of the USA had enough Hungarian workers,
(who were distinct from other european workers) and an urban black culture to
make (or care about) the distinction between Hungarians and, say, Romanians?
This one smells a little like a fishing expedition... maybe Sheidlower and some
philologists should try fishing in the Detroit River...)
gypsiedavie at &%yahoo. at & s#com
just a dog-gone minute! I am one of those drivers who used to honk at the
hookers on Cass, and I'm here to tell you that I have never been to Hungary.
And I only wanted them to get out of the way, not into my car. That's my story,
and I'm sticking to it. Beep Beep.
larrysmith33#R at & at & hotmail.com
The point is well taken
that blacks might not make distinctions between Hungarians and other Eastern
Europeans. However, the meanings of words often become more general as they
evolve. Thus, "hunky" and bo-hunk" came to mean any Eastern European (at least
in my neck of the woods. One could thus easily imagine it generalizing even
further and coming to mean all white labourers, and finally all
jacko at &lycos.com
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