use of "sunshine" as a racial slur against blacks

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 3 00:15:20 UTC 2009

I've never heard it so used, but I *have* heard it once or twice as a
playful form of address (as by older waitresses to male diners in downscale
Southern eateries), i.e., "How are you today, sunshine?"

The earliest ex. I know of is in James Forbes's play "The Show Shop"
(1914) in _The Famous Mrs. Fair and Other Plays_ (N.Y.: George H. Doran,
1919), p. 99:

"ROSENBAUM: Hello, Sadie. [To TOMPKINS] Hello, Sunshine. We've got to slam
this show through."

Tompkins's first name is given as "Wilbur."


On Mon, Mar 2, 2009 at 7:02 PM, Jocelyn Limpert
<jocelyn.limpert at>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jocelyn Limpert <jocelyn.limpert at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      use of "sunshine" as a racial slur against blacks
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Does anyone have any information as to the origins of or current usage of
> "sunshine" being used in speech today in a derrogatory way as a racial slur
> against blacks/African-Americans?
> A friend asked me for information concerning this and I could find little
> in
> the online searches that I did. Usually I'm much more successful, so I
> would
> appreciate any help that you can give me.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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