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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 it?

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Answer: honky

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."

Source: Crying Wolof -- Does the word hip really hail from a West African language? By Jesse Sheidlower (


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 [Mootguy: Sheidlower's?] '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

Now wait 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 &

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 whites.
jacko at &

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