"fancy-girl", long antedating 1892-- (OED2)

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Oct 8 03:36:34 UTC 2014

On Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 8:05 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:

> I suspect many did not rise to the status of "mistresses", particularly
among those who were slaves.

That depends upon what you consider the status of "mistresses" to be. Cf.
Sally Hemmings, fancy-girl of Thomas Jefferson, or, especially, Eliza
Smith, fancy-girl of Michael Healy and the mother of James Healy, first
black Catholic bishop in the United States, and Patrick Healy, S.J., first
black American Jesuit, first black American to earn a doctorate - though
from the Catholic University of Leuven/Louvain in Belgium and not from any
American school - first black American to become president of a college not
traditionally black: Georgetown, whose admin building is named after him.
Clearly, they could have accomplished none of this, if Michael had
considered Eliza to be no more than a chick on the side and had, therefore,
cared nothing about the children begotten upon her.

Unless you prefer the P.C. "children conceived with her." Unless that
phraseology is the result of ignorance and not an attempt at political


Frederick Law Olmsted, in his 1857 "A Journey in the seaboard slave
states," mentions the presence of fancy-girls being held for auction in the
slave pens at a slave mart in Washington, D.C.

"a _bright_ Mulatto"

"Bright" - the opposite of "dark," of course - was/is? the usual term in
East Texas BE. Elsewhere that I've lived, the more banal
"light-skinned(-ed)" is used and "half-white" is common, though "mulatto"
is sometimes used, most often as a joking put-down to a person's joking
references to white ancestry as something that *truly* separates him from
the rest of the bruz.

I've either heard and/or read that "bright" is also the preferred term "in
de eye-lahnz, mahn."

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 - http://www.americandialect.org

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