"Rastus" (was: Re: [ADS-L] "Jazz Means Happy and Loose Like" (1917))

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Mon Dec 3 18:18:35 UTC 2007

On Mon, Dec 03, 2007 at 01:05:15PM -0500, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
> On Dec 3, 2007 12:41 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > OT. "Rastus" and "Zek'l" were still being used as generic personal
> > names for a darky, like "darky" was used as a generic term for a black
> > male, into the early 'Sixties. I wonder how far back they go.
> >
> > To give the white devil <har! har!> his due, these names were quite
> > often also attached to poor whites of the caricatured "hillbilly"
> > type.
> In his 1944 _American Speech_ article "Designations for Colored Folk,"
> H.L. Mencken writes that "in my boyhood _Cuffy_ had disappeared and
> _Sambo_ was being supplanted by _Rastus_." He also notes the popular
> song, "Rastus on Parade" by Kerry Mills (1895), which is also the
> first cite given by the OED.

We now have an 1886 example, found on NPA, as our earliest.

Jesse Sheidlower

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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