[Ads-l] Racist origins of "Grandfathering"

Dennis During dcduring at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 18 22:02:19 UTC 2020

The racist origins of the term were completely whitewashed from my
understanding of its meaning. I hope we can find a substitute.

According to the Wikipedia article on "Grandfather clause":

There is also a rather different, older type of *grandfather clause*,
perhaps more properly a *grandfather principle* in which a government blots
out transactions of the recent past, usually those of a predecessor
government. The modern analogue may be repudiating public debt, but the
original was Henry II <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_II_of_England>'s
principle, preserved in many of his judgments, "Let it be as it was on the
day of my grandfather's death", a principle by which he repudiated all the
royal grants that had been made in the previous 19 years under King Stephen

But that doesn't carry over to the sense in question.

"Grandfather clauses" are used to prevent laws from being ex post facto
laws.  I hope delegitimizing the term "grandfather" in this sense does not
legitimiza ex post facto laws.

On Fri, Dec 18, 2020 at 3:23 PM Baker, John <JBAKER at stradley.com> wrote:

> I thought I had previously posted on grandfathering, but I can't
> immediately find it in the archives.
> The conventional history of the verb "to grandfather," which appears to be
> essentially correct, is that it arose in connection with restrictive voting
> laws that were intended to disenfranchise African-Americans, but included
> conditions intended to prevent the disenfranchisement of white voters, such
> as a provision that voters would not be disenfranchised if their
> grandfathers were voters.  While I have not confirmed the existence of
> provisions specifically referencing grandfathers, the historical existence
> of these restrictive voting laws is well-documented, and the intent to
> disenfranchise African-Americans is explicit, not in the text of the laws
> themselves, of course, but in the public discussions at the time.
> Geoffrey's link, which focuses on the laws rather than on the term, gives
> more information about them.
> However, it should be understood that the term as originally used was
> intended to be critical of restrictive voting laws.  Here's the earliest I
> initially see, which is a 43-year antedating of the earliest example in the
> OED.  From the Henryetta (Okla.) Free-Lance (Sept. 23, 1910)
> (Newspapers.com):
> "There is a certain amount of justice in the world that cannot be entirely
> destroyed, even in Oklahoma.  A Tulsa judge has decided that negroes who
> have been "grandfathered" out of their franchise cannot be made to pay poll
> tax.  That amendment will cost the republican party a few votes, and the
> state of Oklahoma $80,000 in poll tax."
> Note that, at the time, African-Americans tended to align with the
> Republican party, so it was primarily Democrats who sought to restrict the
> vote on racial lines for partisan reasons - a reversal of the current
> environment.  Here is another early example of the term, also critical of
> it, as the use of "Jim Crow" shows.  From the (Ardmore, Okla.) Daily
> Ardmoreite (July 29, 1920) (NewspaperArchive), in a letter to the editor:
> "In your "Stories of the Street" on July 28 you publish the following:
> "Sam Butler, local attorney and prominent republican politician, with
> democratic proclivities, was displaying the first Harding button the
> streets of the city today."
> "Now, Mr. Editor:  I want to denounce Red Snider for writing me up like
> that.  He knows as well as anyone that I am a Registered, Grandfathered and
> Jim Crowed Republican, and I don't like to be slandered that way.
> Very truly,
> Sam H. Butler"
> Note that both of these are from Oklahoma, which may be indicative of the
> term's geographic origin.
> In its current use, grandfather, v., is entirely devoid of racial
> implications.  In addition, it's a very handy word, with no equivalent term
> that so succinctly expresses the intent that a new statute or regulation
> will not cause those already operating in reliance on the pre-existing rule
> to lose their ability to do so.
> John Baker
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> On Behalf Of
> Geoffrey Nathan
> Sent: Friday, December 18, 2020 2:01 PM
> Subject: Re: Racist origins of "Grandfathering"
> External Email - Think Before You Click
> There are, on Facebook (and probably elsewhere) lists of such
> words with 'racist' origins that we are encouraged to stop using.
> Some of them are the usual etymythologies, but, as far as I can
> tell, this one is real. However, its actual origins seem to be
> contested. Some argue it has to do with state laws in the South
> that said only those whose grandfathers could vote were
> allowed to vote. However, there is evidence it predates
> Reconstruction, and originated in the North:
> https://n.pr/3nCgD4s<https://n.pr/3nCgD4s>
> Now, the question of whether we should not use words
> because of what they meant over a century ago is a different
> question from whether the etymology is correct...
> For instance, the etymology of 'black' is an Indo-European root
> meaning 'glow, burn', but no current native speaker of English
> knows that, nor are they subconsciously invoking the original
> meaning.
> That, however, is probably a question for the sociolinguists
> and psycholinguists among us.
> Geoff
> Geoffrey S. Nathan
> WSU Information Privacy Officer (Retired)
> Emeritus Professor, Linguistics Program
> https://clasprofiles.wayne.edu/profile/an6993<
> https://clasprofiles.wayne.edu/profile/an6993>
> geoffnathan at wayne.edu<mailto:geoffnathan at wayne.edu>
> From: Bill Mullins<mailto:amcombill at HOTMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Friday, December 18, 2020 12:09 PM
> Subject: Racist origins of "Grandfathering"
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> Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU<mailto:
> Poster: Bill Mullins <amcombill at HOTMAIL.COM<mailto:amcombill at HOTMAIL.COM>>
> Subject: Racist origins of "Grandfathering"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> https://greensboro.com/news/education/wake-schools-will-stop-using-the-term=
> <
> https://greensboro.com/news/education/wake-schools-will-stop-using-the-term=
> >
> -grandfathering-because-it-has-racist-origins/article_478ba8fc-3664-11eb-9a=
> 49-3706dfbe2e2b.html
> News to me.
> OED has 1953 for the relevant sense.
> 4. transitive. North American. To exempt from new legislation or
> regulation=
> s, usually because of some prior condition of previously existing
> privilege=
> . Frequently with in (also with into, out). Also in extended use.
> 1953 Kentucky Revised Statutes 2190/2 All certificates or permits grand=
> fathered shall be subject to the same limitations and restrictions.
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Dennis C. During

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

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