[Ads-l] RES: Alligator Bait

David Daniel dad at COARSECOURSES.COM
Tue Apr 21 02:35:43 UTC 2020

I just now came into this, so if someone else has mentioned this I'm sorry.
I remember a joke from the 60s. Lyndon Johnson is helicoptering over a bayou
or whatever in the south, and he sees two white men in a boat with two black
kids water skiing behind the boat. He orders the pilot to land the
helicopter and goes and greets the white men in the boat and congratulates
them with endless handshakes and praise for their excellent actions on
behalf of race relations. He then takes off. One man looks at the other and
says, "Who was that?" Other guy says, "I don't know, but he don't know
nothin about trollin for alligators." 

-----Mensagem original-----
De: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] Em nome de
Jonathan Lighter
Enviada em: segunda-feira, 20 de abril de 2020 22:30
Assunto: Re: Alligator Bait

Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
Subject:      Re: Alligator Bait

I shared your doubts when I included this unpleasant term in HDAS 1, but in
those pre-databank days, I could find no background other than the supposed

In other words, your conclusions are undoubtedly correct.


On Mon, Apr 20, 2020 at 7:51 PM Peter Reitan <pjreitan at hotmail.com> wrote:

> There is an old racist slur, "alligator bait," used to refer to black 
> people, especially black children.
> There are numerous memes and articles that get circulated around the 
> internet suggesting that the expression was derived from the actual 
> practice of using children as bait in hunting alligators; placing them 
> in shallow water, or sometimes tying them to a post or tree, luring 
> the alligators in close, and then shooting them in the eye at the last 
> possible second.
> Most of those articles cite a few, scattered newspaper articles, most 
> frequently a 1923 article out of Chipley, Florida and a 1908 article 
> about moving alligators from the indoor winter quarters to the outdoor 
> summer alligator pools at the Bronx zoon in 1908.  The Chipley story 
> gets a lot of press because it appeared in Time Magazine, which did 
> report on the existence of the report but did not vouch for its 
> factual basis.  Also frequently cited are several articles about 
> hunting crocodiles in Ceylon or India, using similar techniques.
> Having made a deep dive into the swamp that is alligator/crocodile 
> hunting literature, I believe that the various crocodile and alligator 
> hunting stories are all fictional, derived from a single story 
> published in England in 1888, and that that article was written by a 
> retired British officer better known for submitting military-humor (or 
> should I say humour) to Punch magazine, so its veracity is 
> questionable.  The copycat stories reported nearly identical 
> techniques, using nearly identical language, with increasingly 
> elaborate and less plausible details over the years, and not always 
> black or Indian babies.  Some stories are about kidnapped Russian 
> Jewish babies shipped off to Egypt for crocodile hunting, or "nice fat 
> cracker" babies rented for 50 cents a day in southern Florida.
> I also identified the author of the 1923 piece out of Chipley, Florida 
> as an itinerant newspaper telegraph operator and copy-reader, who 
> later had more success as a "sex philosopher," giving sex education 
> lectures, sometimes following sexually explicit movies, with live 
> demonstration models on stage; so his story is of questionable origin.  
> His story also requires the reader to believe that mothers would rent 
> their children out for $2 a day to hunters who "never miss", so there's
that too.
> The expression, "alligator bait," seems more likely a manifestation of 
> an old wives' tale about alligators, and earlier crocodiles preferring 
> babies over adults, and darker skinned babies over light skinned babies.
>   So, not so much being actively used as bait by hunters, but just 
> believed to be more likely to become food for alligators.  That myth 
> can be traced to Egypt and Cameroon in the 1700s.
> The expression also seems to have quickly become widespread in 1898, 
> following the publication of a single photographic image of naked 
> babies published in Knoxville, Tennessee, and sold under the name 
> "Alligator Bait."
> And in a tie-in with the etymology of "Dude" which has occupied the 
> minds of some on this list, the earliest joke about "alligator bait,"
> using that expression, was about New York Dudes in Florida a few 
> months after the word was coined.
> A lot of weird stuff.  You be the judge.
> You can read about it in my latest post.
> https://esnpc.blogspot.com/2020/04/live-human-alligator-bait-fact-or.h
> tml
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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