Friday, February 20, 2004


This is the funniest thing I've read in a long time. It took a while, but I think I'm composed enough to write. Thanks to Robert Hessen.

posted by Keith Burgess-Jackson 2/20/2004 02:06:20 PM

From the Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed.

Yankee, n. and a.

Also Yankey, Yanky, pl. Yankies.

The two earliest statements as to its origin were published in 1789: Thomas Anburey, a British officer who served under Burgoyne in the War of Independence, in his Travels II. 50 derives Yankee from Cherokee eankke slave, coward, which he says was applied to the inhabitants of New England by the Virginians for not assisiting them in a war with the Cherokees; William Gordon in Hist. Amer. War states that it was a favourite word with farmer Jonathan Hastings of Cambridge, Mass., c 1713, who used it in the sense of 'excellent'. Appearing next in order of date (1822) is the statement which has been most widely accepted, viz. that the word has been evolved from North American Indian corruptions of the word English through Yengees to Yankees (Heckewelder, Indian Nations iii. ed. 1876, p. 77); cf. Yengees.

Perhaps the most plausible conjecture is that it comes from Du. Janke, dim. of Jan John, applied as a derisive nickname by either Dutch or English in the New England states (J. N. A. Thierry, 1838, in Life of Ticknor, 1876, II. vii. 124). The existence of Yank(e)y, Yankee, as a surname or nickname (often with Dutch associations) is vouched for by the following references:

1683 Cal. St. Papers, Colon. Ser. (1898) 457 They [sc. pirates] sailed from Bonaco..; chief commanders, Vanhorn, Laurens, and Yankey Duch. 1684 Ibid. 733 A sloop..unlawfully seized by Captain Yankey. 1687 Ibid. (1899) 456 Captains John Williams (Yankey) and Jacob Everson (Jacob). 1687-8 MSS. Earl of Dartmouth in 11th Rep. Hist. MSS. Comm. App. v. 136 The pirates Yanky and Jacobs. 1697 Dampier Voy. I. iii. 38. 1725 Inventory of W. Marr of Carolina in N. & Q. 5th Ser. X. 467 Item one negroe man named Yankee to be sold.

Cf. also 'Dutch yanky' s.v. yanky.

A. n.

1. a. U.S. A nickname for a native or inhabitant of New England, or, more widely, of the northern States generally; during the War of Secession applied by the Confederates to the soldiers of the Federal army.

b. By English writers and speakers commonly applied to a native or inhabitant of the United States generally; an American. Applied occas. to a ship (cf. Frenchman, etc.).

2. [ellipt. use of the adj.] The Yankee language, the dialect of New England; loosely, American English generally.

3. Whisky sweetened with molasses. local U.S. colloq.

4. pl. Stock Exchange slang. American stocks or securities.

5. A name for various special tools of American origin, or of ingenious design. (Cf. Yankee notions in C.)

6. = Yankee jib in sense C. b. below.

7. Horse-racing. A composite bet on four or more horses, composed of doubles, trebles, and one or more accumulators.

B. adj. a. That is a Yankee; pertaining to or characteristic of Yankees (often with the connotation of cleverness, cunning, or cold calculation); loosely, belonging to the United States, American.

b. Used of or in reference to the language or dialect: cf. A. 2.

C. Comb., etc. a. gen., as Yankee-like, -looking adjs.

b. Special combinations and collocations. Yankee bet Horse-racing = sense A. 7 above; Yankee gang, name in Canada for a special arrangement of gang-saws (see quot.); Yankee jib (topsail), a large jib topsail used in light winds, set on the topmast stay; Yankee-land, the land of Yankees, New England; loosely, the United States; Yankee notions [notion 9b], small wares or useful articles made in New England or the northern States; Yankee State, a nickname for Ohio.

Hence Yankee v. (rare), trans. to deal cunningly with like a Yankee, to cheat; Yankeedom, the realm or country of Yankees, the United States of America; Yankees as a body; Yankeyess, a depreciatory term for an American woman; Yankeefied (-faId) ppl. a., made or become like a Yankee; characteristic of a Yankee; Yankeeish a., resembling a Yankee (whence Yankeeishly adv., like a Yankee); Yankeeism, Yankee character or style; a Yankee characteristic or idiom; Yankeeize v., trans. to make Yankeeish, give a Yankee character to; Yankeeness, Yankee character.


Andrew Sullivan has a link to a neat site. Take the twenty-question test and see what your dialect is. Feel free to tell me; I'm curious. Here's mine: "39% (Yankee). A definitive Yankee." I grew up in Michigan; what can I say? But I got to Texas as fast as I could.

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