racial epithets

Wilson Gray wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Tue Aug 2 17:12:44 UTC 2005

Quiet as it's kept, I know the term, "high yellow/yaller," only as a
literary term. The use of the term, "bird's-eye maple" as cited below
is a new one to me. Never heard it, never seen it. I've been totally
unaware of it till now.

We colored normally say things like "bright(-skinned),"
"light(-skinned)," or "half-white." This last is only a descriptive
with respect to the person's skin tone, hair texture, and eye-color and
implies nothing about that person's parentage, there being no way to
predict which way the genes will lean. I have a friend who's a
green-eyed blond with very fair skin. Yet, all of his other features -
shape and size of nose, hair texture, fullness of lips, etc., match the
  Negroid (stereo)type. And no, he's not an albino.

Speaking of albinos, *all* of the white people that I know personally
who have not actually seen a black albino have great difficulty in
wrapping their minds around the concept. That's not true here, right?

BTW, as a living, breathing bluegum, I'd like to say that we're not
actually poisonous and only on the rarest of occasions do we even so
much as threaten to bite someone, e.g. as Richard Pryor once so
eloquently put it, "Fuck with me and I'll bite your dick off!"

-Wilson Gray

On Jul 30, 2005, at 3:28 PM, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET>
> Subject:      Re: racial epithets
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
>> In a 1930 _AmSp_ article ("Language of the Speakeasy" by C.P.M.),
>> "bird's
>> eye maple" is given as an alternative to "high yaller". A 1944
>> _Phylon_
>> article ("Nicknames and Minority Groups" by Wilmoth A. Carter) repeats
>> this information. Are there any additional cites for this epithet? I
>> don't
>> see any.
> This may not always be an epithet; maybe it's just descriptive
> sometimes
> (see below). Whether the "bird's-eye" part adds anything specific I
> don't
> know: possibilities would include (1) a connotation of high quality or
> price (bird's-eye maple is considered more interesting than ordinary
> maple
> and preferred for furniture, Rolls Royce dashboards, etc., I think) or
> (2)
> an unusual pattern, maybe of freckles or something like that.
> When used exactly as an alternative to "high yellow", I suppose the
> expression MIGHT have embodied a sort of joke, with "bird's-eye"
> equated to
> "high" (based on "bird'eye view" = "[panoramic] view from a high
> place").
> "Maple" used alone as a skin color is not unknown.
> ----------
> _Idaho Daily Statesman_ (Boise ID), 7 April 1901: p. 9(?):
> [George Ade: "Modern Fables"]
> [an older lady (race not specified, therefore I think probably 'white')
> wants some beautifications]
> <<She had a Bird's-Eye Maple Complexion .... / ... "If you can ...give
> me
> some perfumed Dope that will restore a Peaches and Cream Complexion
> ....">>
> ----------
> -- Doug Wilson

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