Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Sun Jan 14 15:15:22 UTC 2007

I'm cheerfully reporting that in my own current (somewhat amalgamated) Southern dialect--and the dialect of others with whom I converse in North Georgia--pen(is)es are often referred to as "peckers" (not that I discuss them all that much!), poor white rural Southerners (a class that, by heritage, includes ME) are sometimes called "peckerwoods" (a more specific designation than "redneck," less derogatory than "white trash"), and toads and frogs colloquially coalesce into "toadfrogs."

An individual could be called a "pecker" as an insult (like a "dick")--or maybe a "peckerhead" (again, like a "dickhead")--but I don't believe any "native speaker" would connect such an insult with the epithet "peckerwood."

Many years ago in _American Speech_ someone (it may have been me) made a connection between "peckerwood" as a demographic term and "yokel," with its possible (and more remote) derivation from a dialect name for a kind of woodpecker.


---- Original message ----
>Date: Sat, 13 Jan 2007 11:12:27 -0800
>From: "James A. Landau" <JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM>
>Subject: Spears

On Saturday 01/13/07 at the usual ADS witching hour of 12:07 AM, Wilson Gray wrote: In _Slang and Euphemism_, Spears defines "peckerwood" as "a derogatory(!) nickname for a Caucasian. From the common name of a species of woodpecker. The term may be an elaboration of 'pecker' (sense 2) [= 'penis' -WG]. [from Southern black dialect ...]."
>"Peckerwood" is the term used for any woodpecker, just as
>"hoppergrass" is used for any  grasshopper, all over the South, and, in East Texas, at least, "toadfrog" is used for any toad. In order to claim that peckerwood is an elaboration of "pecker" in the sense of penis, a researcher would first have to show that "pecker" is used in BE as a slang term for "penis" and that it is also applied to a person as an insult. If there's anyone who can show that even one of these is true, I'll kiss his ass at high noon on the courthouse lawn and give him 45 minutes to draw a crowd.

In "Fate Is The Hunter" Ernest K. Gann (a white man) described a flight circa 1940 in which the pilot ordered "rig the elephant's pecker", meaning to use a flexible hose to blow hot air on the windshield of a DC-2 to defrost it.  Obviously this a case of "pecker" = "penis". As for "toadfrog" I know a man (white, Missionary Baptist by upbringing, born in Arkansas but transplanted to Michigan at an unknown age) who habitually used "toadfrog" to mean either "toad" or "frog".

- Jim Landau

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

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