man+(noun) combin ing form

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Oct 3 20:00:14 UTC 2005

On 10/3/05, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: man+(noun) combin               ing form
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >In a message dated 10/2/05 10:58:56 PM, JJJRLandau at AOL.COM writes:
> >
> >
> >>
> >>  My recollection is that in Louisville, Kentucky, in the 1950's and 1960's,
> >>  the term "colored man" did NOT mean "an African-American male" but rather
> >>  had
> >>  the more specific meaning "an African-American male employed in a white
> >>  household" or even more specifically "an African-American male employed in
> >>  a  white
> >>  household as a semi-skilled artisan, such as a handyman or  gardener."
> >>  Similarly "colored woman" had the specific meaning "an  African-American
> >>  cleaning
> >>  woman".   However (NAACP please note)  "colored people" did indeed mean
> >>  "African-Americans in general".

Back in the '40's and '50's in St. Louis, "colored man" was used by
black people with the meaning, "a black man who can do a job that you
would ordinarily expect to have to hire a white man to do," e.g.
electrician, heating and air-conditioning, paper-hanging, plumbing,
tiling, etc.

"My house needs to be rewired. Any y'all know a colored man/colored fellow?"

In Texas, at the time, a black man who worked as a white man's helper
in such jobs during the day would have his own business performing
these jobs for other black people in the evening and on weekends. Such
jobs as meter-reading, Railway Express delivery, special delivery of
mail (the only kind of mail service available in black neighborhoods;
for other mail, it was necessary to go "uptown" to the post office),
installing telephones, etc. were done by white men, regardless of

-Wilson Gray

> >>
> >
> >Couldn't a distinction made on the basis of stress? i.e.,
> >
> >colored MAN = African-American servant
> Not sure about this; *my* intuition is different.  "I'll have my
> colored man do it", "Where's the colored man?", and so on would still
> seem to have the forestress.  (I hear this with non-rhotic
> pronunciation, no doubt from old movies:  "CULluhd man".)
> Larry
> >COLORED man = African-American male
> >
> >That would seem intuitively right to me.

-Wilson Gray

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