[Ads-l] antedating "peckerwood"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Aug 9 21:50:14 UTC 2021

Amongst the colored, "peckerwood" is used pejoratively as a term of obloquy
for a white person or, literally, as the word for _woodpecker._ OTOH, as
currently used by white people, e.g. on TV - "Well, aren't you just the
cutest little peckerwood!" or similar, said by a woman without a Southern
accent to her sitcom-goof-up husband - as mentioned here, some years ago,
this term is merely a hypocoristic.

On Tue, May 18, 2021 at 3:04 PM Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>

> OED: 1928
> These are from African-American papers:
> 1915 _Topeka Plaindealer_ (Sept. 24) 1: The good citizens, both white and
> colored, should get busy and get their eyes open for the sacred soil of
> Kansas is about to be desecrated by a lot of red necks and peckerwoods from
> the South [who] are invading Kansas and bringing their prejudice.
> 1915 _Kansas City (Mo.) Sun_ (Oct. 2) 4: "Peckerwoods"...are too poor and
> shiftless to keep up with their own race.
> Otherwise, the word was used earlier (in contrast to "Jaybird") to
> designate (seemingly) members of the agrarian wing of the Democratic Party
> and, from 1892, of the Populist Party.  I can't say how these designations
> arose. Many of the following are potentially ambiguous:
> 1884 _Evening Republic_ (Columbus, Ind.) (Oct. 15) 3: Has the Democratic
> Central Committee...not heard of Hartsville Crossing?  No speaker has been
> billed for this place yet. They ought to...have a rally. The
> Possumglory "peckerwood" band would furnish music and the[y] could have a
> rouser.
> 1885 Ibid. (July 25) 2: The Possumglory Democrats have reorganized their
> pecker-wood band and are ready to make campaign music.
> 1888 _Burden [Kans.] Eagle_ (Sept. 8) 3:  We don't care anything about
> being called a Red-headed Pecker-wood or the paper we publish being called
> "Jay bird."
> 1889 _Ft. Worth Gazette_ (Aug. 19) 2: The Jaybirds...represent the regular
> Democrats. ...The first shot was fired by the Peckerwood party.
> 1893 _Democrat-Republican_ (Linden, Ala.) (March 2) 3:  He should have run
> for Congress instead of being scared off the track by a lot of howling
> dervishes led by the pecker-wood saint of Bibb [County].
> 1897 _Weekly Advertiser_ (Montgomery, Ala.) (Aug. 20) 3: The legislatures
> of the land are too prone to fritter away precious moments on local matters
> and peckerwood legislation.
> 1898 _Marion County Herald_ (Palmyra, Mo.) (June 23) 1: The "Bryan
> Democrat" (who I shall call "Double Tongue Peckerwood").
> 1898 _Southern Standard_  (Arkadelphia, Ark.) (Sept. 2) 2: A lot of little
> pin-headed peckerwoods is sayin' that I ain't fitten to make laws.
> 1901 _Topeka Plaindealer_ (March 8) 1: GOLORED [sic] VOTERS BEWARE Of the
> Hypocritical Gush of a Lot of Peckerwood Politicians....THE PECKERWOOD
> CANDIDATE ...[represents] the class of people posing as prohibitionists,
> teetotalers, and everything that pertains to [the] good and moral.
> ...Hughes...is secretary of a fashionable drinking club.  Ibid._ 2: The
> peckerwood, resubmission candidate...seems to think that Chiles and
> Townsend ought to leave town until he is elected.
> ,
> A red-headed person:
> 1873 _Daily Illinois State Journal_ (Springfield, Ill.) (Nov. 1) 3: "Two or
> three others...had not red heads, and when the question was asked, "which
> Adams?" the answer would be, "why, Peckerwood Adams, of course."
> 1900  _ Denver Post_(Jan. 10) 6:   "Go it, my peckerwood!" Vest's hair was
> very red.
> 1900 _Daily Ardmoreite_ (Ardmore, Okla.) (March 11) 5: Listen to the
> Peckerwood's Song...Porter Staples, The Red Headed Grocer.
> This ex. could illustrate any of those three senses:
> 1897_Tuskeegee News_  (July 8) 3: In the recent Populite convention at
> Nashville, one of the leaders called another a "red-headed peckerwood," was
> in turn called a "buzzard," and then a fight followed.
> Finally - is it alluding to poor whites or to actual woodpeckers (which
> make a few wood chips)?
> 1900 _Weekly Herald_ (Wetumpka, Ala.) (March 1) 6: Johnston sneers at
> people whose property is "covered by mortgages" and we heard him allude to
> the saw mill at Coosada the other day as "a little peckerwood saw mill."
> Johnston "don't like no cheap man." See?
> JL
> "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

- 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

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

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