New racist etymology

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 14 22:33:56 UTC 2013

On Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 8:04 AM, W Brewer <brewerwa at> wrote:
> Circa 1972, Ft MacArthur, our battalion CO apologized to the troops for
> using the words _black_{buck_sergeant_} (not _black_buck_{sergeant}).

The CO probably shouldn't have apologized. I'm aware of the book only
because the mother of a friend was a collector of what might be nonced
"published Negro-with-two-g's-iana." I *may* have read "black buck" -
*not* "buck negro" - in fiction of the _Mandingo_ school. Insofar as
I've given it any thought, IMO, this use of "buck" is an extension of
"buck Indian"/"Indian buck." I've known from fetus-hood that male
Native Americans were "bucks." OTOH, I was in high school before I saw
the "Buck Negro" book and in my late 20's before I read any Kyle
Oncott. And he wrote *fiction.* There was nothing in that to persuade
me that "buck" was ever regularly used of the real soul brother. of


IAC, I don't think that any black troops would have parsed "black buck
sergeant" as [[black buck] sergeant] and not as [black [buck
sergeant]], if the CO's apology hadn't alerted them to that
possibility. Besides, since I'm not a Native American, this use of
either "buck" or "squaw" has *never* struck me as having any negative
connotation. Otherwise, I'd have a very clear memory of any literary
use of "buck" WRT to male blacks other than in the title of one volume
of an encyclopedia generally devoted to the denigration of black
people. Indeed, the unusual use of "buck" *not* WRT to Indians is the
only thing that made that title memorable, the titles of the other
volumes being just the usual racist shit.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint
to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society -

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