New racist etymology

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Mar 15 02:56:33 UTC 2013

I guar-on-tee you that "buck Negro" is a "literary" confection.

I never heard "buck (nigger)" in NY, but I've read them many, many times in
stories about the South and, to a lesser degree, West.

There's an old sea shanty verse from the 19th C. that goes,

Who's been here since I been gone?
Big buck nigger with his sea boots on.

When sung nowadays by (99 44/100 % white) harmonizin' folkies, it's altered
to the culturally-insipid-but-not-offending-anybody "Arkansas farmer with
his sea boots on."


On Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 10:23 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: New racist etymology
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 8:10 PM, Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at>
> quited:
> > d. *offensive*. ... any black male. So … _buck Negro_, _buck nigger_...
> Damn! You people actually *use* these terms? For real? And you intend
> "buck" as an *insult*?! And you feature in your minds "Negro"and not
> "negro"? Really? This is no lie?!
> Clearly, I've been living in a dream. I kinda felt that this must be a
> living usage, if W's CO felt the need to apologize, lest he
> inadvertently offend the modern equivalents of yesterday's United
> States Colored Troops.
> But I was hoping.
> As for "buck sergeant," despite an attestation that predates my birth,
> "buck sergeant" was fairly rare in my day and still felt "unnatural,"
> like merely a punning on "buck private." People normally said
> "sergeant E-5" or "acting jack," if there was ever a need to note a
> distinction. An NCO is an NCO. As someone was heard to remark, "I once
> saw a *corporal* in charge of of 200 head of EM!" Though a corporal is
> an E-4, that herd could well have included - or even have consisted
> entirely of - E-5's, if these were merely specialists. "Bottoming from
> the top," as it were.
> --
> -Wilson
> -----
> 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
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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