[Ads-l] Slight antedating of "uppity" (1878)

Bonnie Taylor-Blake b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM
Sat Apr 8 15:07:29 UTC 2023

The OED cites Joel Chandler Harris's "Uncle Remus: Songs & Sayings" as its
earliest example (1880) of "uppity," with the meaning "above oneself,
self-important, 'jumped-up'; arrogant, haughty, pert, putting on airs."

Here are two slightly earlier usages (1878, 1879) of "uppity" by Charles
Henry Smith (1826-1903), an Atlanta writer and humorist who wrote under the
pen name "Bill Arp." Smith wrote for the Constitution while Harris was an
associate editor for the paper.

FWIW, Harris used the word in a perceived "humorous" vernacular of Black
Southerners of the period; Smith used it as part of a white ("cracker")
Georgia dialect. (See

(I think the following snippets also include slight antedatings of
"biggity," here "bigoty.")

-- Bonnie


Well, there's another class of people that's supportin the parson -- the
dissatisfied complainin sort -- them what's bigoty and uppity and finiky;
who they think they know more about everything than anybody else and won't
work anywhere except in lead and won't pull a pound even there, but want to
prance along and blow off and make a big show, and if you don't humor 'em
they will sorter pout and go off on some other shoot.

[From "Bill Arp's Talk; What Feltonites Are Made Of; The Bigoty, the Upity
and the Finicky," The Daily Constitution (Atlanta), 13 October 1878, p. 1.]


Mr. Arp is jest a little too upity for his raisin. He's gettin purnickity
cause away from home everybody thinks he's perfechun perfectorified, but
they am mighty mistaken about that.

[From "Mrs. Arp," who writes a letter to the Editors of the Constitution,
"Among the Arps; The Madame Pays Her Respect to 'that Husband of Hers,'"
The Daily Constitution (Atlanta), 29 April 1879, p. 2.]


I've got no use for these pompous military men. They are too bigoty. They
are too uppity. They have had their own way so long they have no respect
for the restraints of the law. I dont want one of em for president.

[From Bill Arp, "Patching a Peace; Both in Railroads and in Politics," The
Daily Constitution (Atlanta), 15 February 1880, p. 1.]

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

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