[Ads-l] peckerwood

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Sat Aug 14 13:20:39 UTC 2021

A recent arrival to the library:
Dictionary of Southern Appalachian English, by Michael B. Montgomery & Jennifer K. N. Heinmiller; Foreword by Joan Houston Hall (Chapel Hill; UNC Press, 2021).
Peckerwood noun (p. 727) has sense 1 “A woodpecker. See also chuckwood, sapsucker, woodchuck.” Examples from 1866 (in 1974 Harris, High Times 166).
Sense 2 “By extension = a rural white person, originally with little reference to social status; more recently, one who is poor and backward or is of scurrilous or contemptible character. [Editor’s note: this term is now usually somewhat derogatory, but perhaps not as much in Appalachia as in the Deep South….”
And it goes on to note that in the Smoky Mountains, the Civilian Conservation Corps was called [1940ff attested] “the Peckerwood Army or the Peckerwoods….”
1989ff in the “smart aleck human” sense. Nicholson, Field Guide 61…. “If that peckerwood says ‘I told you so’ one more time he can just get this tree off the tent his own self.”


From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Charles C Doyle <cdoyle at UGA.EDU>
Sent: Wednesday, August 11, 2021 12:25 PM
Subject: peckerwood

In American Speech 61 (1986) 326 David Gold noted, "Webster's III defines yokel as 'an unpolished, naive, or gullible inhabitant of a rural area or of a small town' and says that the word is 'perhaps from English dialectal yokel 'green woodpecker.'"

In an appended editorial note I observed the parallel with the (Southern) American dialect peckerwood for both a rustic and a woodpecker.


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