Rick H Kennerly Rick at MOUSEHERDER.COM
Sun Jul 21 16:51:47 UTC 2002

Read that same article this morning and wasn't struck by this particular
passage, so I've read it twice more just now.  What is portrayed below is
just not in my copy of the Smithsonian magazine.   Picnic is mentioned only
once, and then only while writing about crowds gathering for a lynching,
nothing about the etymology or racial connotations of the word.  It's not in
the online version of the article, either.

I believe the French form is piquenique (delightfully, in Hawaii, the
British gave them the term picnic but the locals pronounce it pickynicky--no
idea how they spell it, though--and the parks are pickynicky parks, sounds

As long as we're in the neighborhood, I might as well throw in pickaninny
(and it's various spellings) which also derives from a foreign word, the
Spanish pequeño (small child) , but which, unlike picnic, has a long history
of offensiveness in the US and Caribbean.

Of course, Ida Wells out Rosa-Parked Rosa Parks by refusing to give up her
seat on a Tennessee train in the 1880s.  Her later crusade after the
lynching of a friend's husband was the first organized public outcry against

But this article made me aware that I carry with me a rather narrow view of
the term lynching, shaped, I suppose, by too many westerns.  While I
understand it to be an extralegal mob action to hang a person (with overt
racial overtone outside of western movies), the article uses it for ANY
extralegal mob killing based on race, making the terrible
dragging-behind-a-pickup-truck death of James Byrd up in Jasper, Texas, a
lynching by this standard.  While I was aware there were a lot of terrible
ways for a mob to kill a black, I'd just never come across the term used
outside of a hanging.  What's the etymology of lynch/lynched/lynching?  And
who was Lynch? or does it derive from Linch--a ledge or a right-angled

|o| Last month's Smithsonian(July, pp.70-77) had a wonderful piece
|o| on Ida B. Wells and her advocacy for families and victims of
|o| lynching. Clarissa Myrick-Harris mentioned that the word picnic
|o| is believed to be a abbreviated or truncated synthesis of the
|o| horrific practice of "picking" a "ni_ _er" and then lynching
|o| him for sport while people sat around and ate lunch. She says
|o| that today many African Americans see this term as insulting
|o| and derogative.
|o| What is the collective wisdom of the group on this one? Did
|o| picnic come from this twisted originating matrix?


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