etymology of chicano

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Apr 28 12:14:06 UTC 2013

My recollection from the '60s is that "chicano" - as it was reported on in
the news - was once almost always in mildly derogatory contexts. I recall
my surprise when I first heard it used neutrally (ca1970?).


On Sun, Apr 28, 2013 at 3:54 AM, 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: etymology of chicano
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Tue, Apr 23, 2013 at 10:43 AM, Gregory McNamee <gm at
> >wr=
> ote:
> > The explanation advanced down here in Arizona, where the word *chicano*
> > probably originated and is first attested, is that it's a slangy
> shorteni=
> ng
> > of *mexicano*, "Mexican." In some areas the *x* is pronounced "sh," which
> > usually becomes "ch" in word-initial position. The pronunciation varies
> > from "chicano" to "shicano," though, and I've seen it spelled *xicano*,
> > which better reveals its etymology.
> >
> > That's the way I've heard it, anyway. OED agrees, with first attestation
> > in 1947
> >
> That's the impression that I have from decades of listening to Latin DJ
> Chico Sesma, when I lived in Los Angeles. Google:
> *"Born* in Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, in 1924, Lionel "*Chico"
> Sesma*=
>  was
> raised there by his Mexican-American father, _from Arizona_, and his
> Mexican mother, from Sonora, Mexico."
> He discussed the word _chicano_ on his show, which featured _la musica
> afro-cubana_ as opposed to the music of Mexican America. He said that some
> _angele=C3=B1os_ objected to his constant use of the word where _anglos_
> co=
> uld
> hear it, considering it demeaning, because of its supposedly having
> originated in Mexico as a mildly-contemptuous term for "Anglo-Mexicans," to
> coin a term, from the United States.
> This was ca. 1957 and I have no opinion as to the truth of Chico's origins
> story, which, IMO, doesn't  contradict what Gregory says, in any case.
> Clearly, nobody in California is disturbed by the use of the word nowadays,
> as the name of the Department of _Chicano_/_Chicana_ Studies at my alma
> mater, UC Davis, attests.
> --=20
> -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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