Coon Etymology

carljweber carljweber at MSN.COM
Mon Dec 17 17:44:48 UTC 2001

Douglas G. Wilson wrote: 
>The dictionaries show "coon" = person, man, as current at about this
>time, but the most likely meaning for "cutter" (= an attractive girl)
>comes from the 1870s.  Are there other meanings?

>I would speculate that "coon" and "cutter" refer not to persons but to pieces of equipment. A cutter >might be some type of cutting tool; coon is opaque to me. Both Coon and Cutter are reasonably >common surnames.

I came across a quite reasonable etymology ten years go while looking through some Civil War Negro Spiritual music. The daughter of William Lloyd Garrison (the great American abolitionist), while tending to the needs of emancipated slaves on the Gullah Islands, anthologized Negro spirituals. She also made notes on the Gullah dialect. "Coon" was the name that the ex-slaves called each other, and she indicates that it is the word "cousin" as expressed through the dialect. (The vowel of "coon" maintaining the French pronunciation.) Cf. "bruhvuh" as a lex-bond. As with many terms that members of ethnic communities call each other, they descend into the pejorative. 

This maledicta observation renders null and void the folklore etymology (as I've heard it) that "coon" relates to the coon dogs that used to hunt the raccoon. And then, when the southern whites put these coon dogs to pursuing Negroes, and the word transferred. 

More information about the Ads-l mailing list