FW: "herring broth"

Anne Rogers AnneR at HKUSA.COM
Wed Jun 4 20:42:26 UTC 2003

My mother was visiting last week and happened to mention that her mother (b.
1888, Lynn Massachusetts) called people from Nova Scotia "heron chokers."
When I questioned my mother about why "heron" would be so pejorative, she
wasn't sure. Because of both of their New England accents, she didn't
realize that what her mother had been saying was "herring choker."

A quick Internet search uncovered that "herring choker" is a racial slur for
Scandinavians, based on their eating fish and/or fishing for a living. And
one of the first hits was for the "Herring Choker Deli" in Nova Scotia.

This post made me wonder if the "herring broth" as insult also was tainted
by the "herring choker" slur?

Anne Rogers

-----Original Message-----
From: George Thompson [mailto:george.thompson at NYU.EDU]
Sent: Tuesday, June 03, 2003 1:59 PM
Subject: "herring broth"

As a contribution to our researches into food history, I offer the

John Middleton was indicted for an assault on Mary Gibson.  The prosecutrix
is a married woman of reputation, a native of Ireland.  On Sunday the 2d.
inst. the prisoner came into her apartment, where she and her husband were
at breakfast, and enquired if she could not give him some herring-broth.
Conceiving this to be a gross national as well as personal insult, the
prosecutrix threw the contents of the slop-bowl in his face, and he departed
to all appearance perfectly satisfied.  [Later, he meets her in the street,
as she is leaving church, and kicks her,] telling her at the same time that
he was giving her a little herring-broth.  [6 months.]
New-York Commercial Advertiser, August 18, 1807, p. 2, col. 4 - p. 3, col. 1

It's not clear to me why "herring broth" should have been such an insult.
Perhaps you had to have been there.  As a guess, I believe that the herring
has been considered a pretty poor kind of food, and so, perhaps, a broth
made from herrings would be even more a symbol of poverty.  Other thoughts?


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ.
Pr., 1998.

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