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27-34 Published by: Western States Folklore Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1520639 . Accessed: 10/02/2011 17:32
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1946). The origins of these expressions are obscure. Oklahoma. States stress equality BECAUSE THE DOMINANT VALUES in the United racial and ethnic prejudices are most often covert. 'Wentworth and Flexner. In some few cases.2 These phrases follow two definite patterns: the regional. Neither jocular nor deprecating. generally lost in the confusion of long standing antagonisms between two groups." "California poppy. 2 Ramon F. Paradoxically. and one by no means regionally confined. 1960). So it is that a "Rocky Mountain canary" is a burro. may serve as an example. "Irish confetti. "Mexican chrome" is silver paint and an "Indian haircut" is a scalping."  . Dictionary of American Slang (New York. One large group of terms.Ethnic Derisive and Place Names as Adjectives ED CRAY for all." for example. Adams. op. Known in some circles as a "Spanish athlete.1 a "Detroit sled" is any American-built automobile. the material a collector garners on his field trips may well suggest these latent prejudices. there is historical evidence that they are the direct outgrowth of some incident." "Georgia warbler' and "Hungarian goulash" are examples of a third form. or ethnic name modifying either a euphemistic noun-as in the above examples-or a noneuphemistic noun-as in "Mexican athlete"3 (an unsuccessful candidate for an athletic team) or "Jewish side-walls" (appliqued white rubber circles put on black-wall tires to simulate the more expensive white side-walls). Even an informant who realizes he has prejudices is not likely to speak openly of them to a collector he has known only a short time. nationalities. the phrases thus formed are used as euphemisms or as descriptive statements. The names of races. the adjective indicates the actual or believed place of origin: terms used in this fashion have been excluded from this paper. cit. There are certainly enough vehicles-from jokes to songs-but the richest in indicating an informant's social antagonisms is substantive folk speech. national. as well as some not so latent. and localities are often pressed into service as adjectives. Such terms as "Canadian bacon. Western Words (Norman. are bricks and cobblestones thrown 'Harold Wentworth and Stuart Berg Flexner.
" hence its inclusion here. it is difficult to draw a sharp distinction between "derogatory" and "derisive"-yet time and usage have had the effect of changing the implications of these terms precisely from the former to the latter. a "Mexican muffler" is a tin can stuffed with steel wool mounted on an exhaust pipe. "Hot-rodders. The Singing Sixties (Norman." . it is seemingly a substitution for "Mexican. A "Mexican credit card. the Army of the Tennessee during the Civil War called dysentary "the Tennessee quickstep. less violent and antagonistic. History of Bigotry in the United States (New York. Most of the terms have only a regional distribution and are confined to areas where the specific racial. Dictionary definitions notwithstanding. The renaming of dysentary is not a new thing. national. pp. and Porter Heaps. the prevalence of specific artifacts or conditions directly influence the number of words used to describe or name them. it becomes an "Oklahoma credit card. 5 Though "taco" is not a national. have created a number of terms to apply to specific situations or materials: a "Mexican valve job" is accomplished by pouring kerosene into the carburetor to flush out some of tile carbon deposited on cylinder walls. for a summary of the anti-Catholic agitation. In response to its frequency. This group also uses the prefix with a euphemism. makeshift. the term seemingly originated with the anti-Catholic rioting promoted by the Know-nothings in 1852." (a hose and siphon used for pilfering gasoline at night) is known in the Southwest. a "Mexican jelly bean" is a 1936 Chevrolet which has been fitted with a "Mexican window shade" (Venetian blinds) in the rear window and a "taco wagon" is a car which has had its leaf springs shackled."6 4See Gustavus Myers. "Montezuma's revenge. a "Kentucky credit card." and. 1960)." At least one occupational group in Southern California uses the adjective "Mexican" to denote anything inferior. or regional antagonisms involved operate." "Mexican toothache. A "Mexican Maserati" is a Mercury.4 The social and/or political rivalries which gave birth to these terms still exist-though less open." those who "customize" (to use their term) automobiles. In northern Texas. 119-140. calls this irritating malady La Turista ("the tourist")." "Mexican fox-trot." in southern Indiana. 1960). Humor or "colorful speech" (for want of a better term) seem now to be major objectives of the use of derisive adjectives. in turn. or substitute without relying upon a euphemism for the modified noun. As a result. Oklahoma. "Mexican side-walls" come out of a can of white paint. or regional name. the North American in Mexico has coined a number of names for the inevitable dysentary and diarrhea: "Mexican two-step. More obscure. the present-day usage appears to be less malevolent or malicious than formerly. 6The Mexican." the "Curse of Montezuma" and the "Aztec hop. according to Willard A. ethnic. a "Mexican Buick" a Chevrolet.5 As it is with language generally.28 WESTERN FOLKLORE during street fights. less directly if more colorfully.
"Baltimore beef steak. "Boston strawberries" are beans." (apple butter). Chicago. "A Word List from West Texas. Cf. 1950) Aztec hop-dysentary or diarrhea. 1961) H. 1923). Mathews also lists "Cape Ann turkey. flour. a tightening of the belt a notch or two as a substitute for food. 1961. Santa Barbara. Zacoalco. 7 .. Mathews. The term has a limited currency." infra. 1956) California breakfast-a cigarette and an orange. foods seemingly offer the greatest number of prefixed terms. theses. and water). like "Chicago coffin."10 (Los Angeles. Also known as galloping dominoes. (Los Angeles. Jalisco. (John Greenway. its present day usage. has "Dallas special" as a knife with an extralegal blade. "Pennsylvania salve. 1961) Arkansas fire extinguisher-a chamberpot. 11 (1949). Wentworth and Flexner. July 7. while touring Mexico. James N. (Los Angeles. Cf. Wentworth and Flexner.8 (Los Angeles. 1960) Chicago overcoat-a barrel of cement used to weight a body thrown into the river. 9Any number of foods too-commonly served (to visitors?) in one area have acquired derisive nomenclature. Though the term was current in 1952."9 (Los Angeles." "Confederate mule. Wentworth and Flexner offer. No. 1961) Arkansas toothpick-any knife with a blade exceeding the legal limit. Mathews. weathered pine building. Mathews lists." (cow or calf's liver). L. 1961) California prayer book-a deck of cards.-California) used the term to describe the administration of President Kennedy. "Mississippi marbles. Wentworth and Flexner have it in this form and as "California Bible. (Jane Quint. Mathews has "California toothpick" as a synonym. Of depression origin? Adams cites Spanish supper. the Civil War terms "Confederate beef. plus many more. Tidwell. and references-when African dominoes-dice. 1961) Chicago piano-A Thompson submachine gun. according to Mathews. 1960) Arizona paint job-used to describe an unpainted. Mencken." (Los Angeles. etc. (Los Angeles. 10Los Angeles Times. "Mountain oysters" or "Kentucky oysters" are pigs' testicles used as food. Mencken cites "African golf" as craps. Wentworth and Flexner identify it specifically as a Bowie knife or bayonet. for example. and Stanley Robe has collected fresas Mexicanas ("Mexican strawberries") from Filiberto Sol6rzano. (Los Angeles.7 Cf. The American Language (New York. 1961) Chinese fire drill-Congressman Robert Wilson (Rep. 8Mitford M." would seem to derive from television. Wentworth lists it simply as a coffin." Publications of the American Dialect Society. Cf.DERISIVE USE OF ETHNIC NAMES 29 The following is a glossary of such prefixed terms currently in oral tradition in California. among others. Los Angeles. Congressman Wilson "likened it to a 'Chinese fire drill' and said orders are being issued and countermanded with such frequency that only 'chaos and confusion' remain. The list is long. Adams has "Texas butter" or "immigrant butter" (a gravy made from bacon grease. largely as a result of the recent television gangster dramas set in the 1920's. 1960) Cape Cod turkey-codfish. (Anonymous." and "Cincinnati quail" for fat pork. Collectors (other than this writer) are given in parenavailable-are cited. A Dictionary of Americanisms on Historical Principles (2 vols. "Haight Street breakfast" and "Mexican breakfast. 1951). 1958) Bronx cheer-the less-than-enthusiastic sound made by blowing air through partially flexed lips." (Los Angeles. c.
older friend. "Detroit iron. . Wentworth and Flexner. Merrill. Amy Vanderbilt. has "Gypsy's leave" also. Los Angeles. "Detroit sled. "presumably mixed together. "In France don't talk about 'French leave'-it's known as 'English leave' (le conge anglais). a "Methodist measure" is a short measure." (Los Angeles. 1 The Tidwell. French kiss-also known among Los Angeles teenagers as the "deep kiss" or "soul kiss". Fenner. as when a soldier goes absent without leave or a debtor skips town. cites "to talk to him like a Dutch uncle. Mathews.1 (Diane Marks. cit. 1961) Indian giver-a person who gives a gift and then asks for it to be returned. to scold or bawl out. p. and has not heard it since. F." Publications of the American Dialect Society. Bradley. 1940." supra. Davis. Cf. Cf. Pierce. cit. 1960) Gook wagon-an automobile which has been overly ornamented with chrome and accessories or altered in some manner not currently in vogue among hot rod enthusiasts. ( Los Angeles. Brooklyn. one of the few on this list so honored. 14 The term "gook" is ambiguous and the phrase "gook wagon" may not belong on this list. (Los Angeles. 1946. Lynch. This seemingly is the antithesis of the entry in Webster's citing "one who reprimands with great severity and directness. XWentworth and Flexner. Mathews has it as "Dutch leave". Proverbial Comparisons and Similies from California (Berkeley and Los Angeles. writing in the Trans World Airlines house organ. "Gook" is synonymous with gawdy decoration.e. Commonly known and used. without informing anyone.13 (Los Angeles. usually Chianti. Arlene Purchin. Wentworth and Flexner. most often shortened to "French. says. Wentworth and Flexner list this. reports that in West Texas. 1954) Detroit iron-any American-built automobile.30 WESTERN FOLKLORE Connecticut mile-the distance traveled in one minute. Often shortened to "going Dutch. The term probably dates from the days of the Irish immidistance traveled in one minute usually is something less than 5."12 (Los Angeles.. Wide currency among children. Cf. (Los Angeles. 1960. 14 (1950)." The fact that Miss Vanderbilt felt no need to define the term may be an indication of its wide currency. (Daniel Crowley. 1945) Irish banjo-a shovel. (Los Angeles. 1960) Dutch treat-an affair at which each person pays his own check. 1954). "A Word List from South Carolina. (Los Angeles. The author first heard the term in this high school days in Los Angeles. 1945) Dutch uncle-an affectionate. 1960) French inhale-exhaling a mouthful of smoke. op. Los Angeles. ca. Winter." Haight Street is in San Francisco's Skid Row. or remotely related person. op. Similarly. 12Archer Taylor. 11. New York. though he does not stipulate if it is distance or quantity which is to be measured.. W. Mathews. 1961): "Someone told us the other day that Merrill Lynch reminded him of a Dutch uncle-kindly but stern. a Gook was any Oriental.280 feet. Ambassador. 1946) French leave-to leave secretly. No. Wentworth and Flexner both have it. has "Flemish account" for a small amount." "Without defining the term. 1960) Haight Street breakfast-muscatel and Wheaties." Cf.. and Smith (nee Bean) take a judiciously middle-of-the-road approach in an advertisement in Time Magazine (Aug. 1957) Dago red-cheap red wine." i. 37. to the military in the Far East during the earlv 1950's. then inhaling through the nose. Wentworth and Flexner suggest that this is considered "ultrasophisticated" by teenagers." infra.14 (Jean Fouch. this term is listed in Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary. Mathews. but the use is unclear. 1961) Detroit sled-disparaging sports car drivers use this to describe any Americanbuilt automobile.
16 (Daniel Crowley. Los Angeles.DERISIVE USE OF ETHNIC NAMES 31 gration to the United States when the men were commonly employed as laborers. among them "Debe goat" for pumpkin. from a trade union organizer) Irish pennants-rags or laundry hung up to dry on board ship." "9An Air Force public information officer sent the following release to Time magazine.v. Los Angeles. smiling all the while at a third. LXXIII (1960).S.19 (Los Angeles. cites "Mexican dragline" from oral tradition in San Francisco. Sometimes shortened to "hero sandwich. defines "Irish pennants" as "untidy loose ends of blankets or sheets. Harvard Dictionary of Music. (Bob Klein. Marsha Seid (Santa 5 Mathews has the synonym "Irish spoon. Los Angeles. 1945) Irish shift-used to describe a politician at the Democratic National Convention talking to one person with his arm around another. "Willi Apel. "American Naval 'Slanguage. 1960) Italian hero sandwich-an overly large sandwich most often constructed upon a foundation of Italian bread and salami. (Cambridge. the thing to do to achieve a polar orbit is to apply the principle of "Kentucky windage" and aim the bird west of south." Crowley reeled off a number of these hyphenated terms current in the British West Indies in the late 1950's. (Ken Potter. under "Jew's Harp." (Alice O'Brien. (ean Fouch. now less definite) thrown in a street fight. A plucked metal idiophone. Green. Cf. p. General consensus would have the now-common "Jew's harp" a perversion of "Jaw's harp. (Los Angeles. 1958: "Inasmuch as the earth spins eastward and imparts this eastward velocity to the launching vehicle while it is on the ground." Evidently." infra. See "Irish switch. The reference is to the widely recognized predilection of some Negroes of a lower socio-economic class to use ostentatious automobiles as status symbols. 1958) Jewish overdrive-synonymous with the more common "Mexican overdrive. ca." (Edward Kahn." 6 John Lancaster Riordan. Wentworth and Flexner." infra." infra." 7 Daniel Crowley reports two close parallels from the British West Indies. Los Angeles." See Wentworth and Flexner." Archie Green's "John Neuhaus: Wobbly Folklorist. 1960) Irish confetti-bricks or cobblestones (formerly. See "Mexican side-walls. 1948. (Robert Leventhal. 1950) Kentucky credit card-synonymous with "Mexican credit card. "Colored Peoples' Time" and "West Indian Time." Wentworth and Flexner's "Swedish fiddle. Navy.l5 (Los Angeles. (Los Angeles. 1957. time?" (Los Angeles. 1959) Kentucky windage-the act of compensating for poorly set rifle sights by deliberately aiming off target. 208. ca. 388. the term has graduated from the rifle range to the missile range."18 (Los Angeles. Dec. from Royal Navy usage. Los Angeles. 209. 5. U." a crosscut saw. Wentworth and Flexner have this also. 1951). Wentworth and Flexner. ca. 1960) Irish switch-synonymous with "Irish shift." Journal of American Folklore. Cf. "mountain chicken" for wild frog on the island of Dominique. 1945) Mexican-Wentworth and Flexner enter this as an adjective meaning cheap and inferior. "Nigger bait. Usually used as a taunt: "Do you mean regular or Jewish Jew('s) harp-probably not derogatory. Cf. 1952)17 . though it is limited to use in the Southwest. 1950) Jewish side-walls-white rubber circles glued on black-wall tires. 1950) Jigaboo joy shop-a store which sells chrome accessories for automobiles.'" Western Folklore. Green had other occupationally-derived terms including "Portugee lift" and "German planer. V (1946). 1960) Jewish time-refers to the supposed habit of Jews of being compulsively late for appointments. San Francisco." q. would play a poor duet with the "Irish banjo.
" (Marsha Seid. (Los Angeles. (Sharon Delozier. 1950) Mexican threads-a bolt stripped of its threads but twisted into a hole to cut new threads is said to have "Mexican threads. 1960) Mexican motor mount-inner tubing used as shock absorbing material instead of special mounting parts. 209. North Hollywood. Cf. Defined as any silver paint also. (Max McCormick. Los Angeles. The Maserati is a widely praised European racing car. Cf. from a hod carrier) Mexican filling station-also known as a "Mexican credit card. "Jewish side-walls. Cf." (Laramee Haynes. ( Michael Higer. 1959) Mexican muffler-a tin can stuffed with steel wool attached to an automobile exhaust. Los Angeles. California. San Marino. (Michael Higer. (Laramee Haynes. California. California. 1958) Cf. p. San Fernando. California. 1957) Mexican chrome-aluminum paint used to decorate an automobile. (Los Angeles. California. San Marino. 1959) Mexican overdrive-going downhill in neutral while driving. California. Green. Redondo Beach. 1950) Mexican cashmere-a sweatshirt. 1955) Mexican credit card-a hose and siphon used at night to steal gasoline from parked automobiles. Adams defines this as "getting away alive from any serious difficulty." "Kentucky credit card. 1960) Mexican promotion-an increase in rank or title without an accompanying pay raise. 1955) Mexican standoff-a poker hand when no one can open the betting or when no one wins the pot. rubberized paint used to simulate white side-walls on black-wall tires. Maywood. 1960)." supra. 1953) Mexican nose guard-athletic supporter. Cf. 1960) Mexican jelly bean-1936 Chevrolet. 1959. (Los Angeles. ca. San Fernando. Los Angeles. 1959) Mexican fox-trot-dysentary." "Oklahoma credit card. (Dean Burson. Bogner's is a favorite brand of ski clothing. California. (Max McCormick. 1960) Mexican breakfast-a cigarette and a glass of water. 1959) Mexican car wash-leaving an automobile out in the rain." Mexican Bogner's-blue denim pants (usually Levi's) worn as ski pants. 1958) reported a conversation overheard in which a man referred to a poorly fashioned model of an airplane as a "Mexican job. 1959) Mexican toothache-dysentary. Very common usage. Cf." Mexican dragline-a shovel. (Max McCormick. Mono County. San Fernando. "Jewish overdrive. Oxnard. lowered by shackling the leaf springs and fitted with a "Mexican window blind" (Venetian blind) in the rear window. (Ruth Mark. California. Max McCormick. (Los Angeles. Wentworth and Flexner. 1958) Mexican Buick-a Chevrolet. Van Nuys. (Ken Potter. 1955) Mexican Maserati-a Mercury. 1958) Mexican straight-in poker. 1960) . (Los Angeles. "Mexican filling station. (Ken Potter. Los Angeles." supra.32 WESTERN FOLKLORE Monica. North Hollywood. Los Angeles." (Max McCormick. 1961) Mexican side-walls-white. (Stanley Davidson. (Los Angeles. any five cards and a sharp knife. Wentworth and Flexner. Los Angeles. (Gordon Wilson. 1955. (Ken Potter.
Wentworth and Flexner cite the more polite euphemism. p. St. Woody Guthrie wrote a song with this title in the mid-1940's. (Camp Chaffee. Arkansas. . Van Nuys. one face stands out like a beacon-that of the man the victims know is criminal because they have seen him in cuffs only minutes before. 1960. Louis Post-Dispatch (Sept. Cf. 1959) Oklahoma showup-"A technique known in many police departments as 'The Oklahoma Showup' was then invoked. "Chessman Case Cracks Wide Open. Los Angeles.22 (Los Angeles. 1950) Russian roulette-a game. Neither story bothered to explain the circumstances. 1961) use the term "Russian Roulette" in the headline over a story describing the premature death of two citizens. for a text. but when the time comes to pick a suspect out of the line-up a short time later. Pendleton shirts are noted for their ornate embroidery and cost. (Los Angeles. (Jean Fouch. blindfolded. Oxnard. 2Both the St. (Santa Barbara. in which one cartridge is placed in a revolver and the chamber spun. "Jigaboo joy shop. (Philadelphia. "Ethiopian paradise. 1950. lowering the body." (Los Angeles.." and for this reason is included here. 2 See John Greenway. 1960) or "rich one day. (Ken Potter. (Gordon Wilson. 282-284. ca. either "ostentatiously rich" (Alice O'Brien. Amnerican Folksongs of Protest. Los Angeles. 1958) Mexican window shade-a Venetian blind mounted in the rear window of an automobile." (Sharon Delozier. Before being taken to the line-up."20 Oregon beef-deer killed out of season. ca. California. "Taco" may be a substitute for "Mexican. 1961) and the Los Angeles Examiner (Oct. Los Angeles. Los Angeles. 1961) Philadelphia lawyer-the ultimate in crooked lawyers (much to the dismay of the Pennsylvania Bar Association). poor the next" (Sara Shaffer." The term is in use among used car dealers. 1952. Palos Verde. 1959). seemingly with two meanings. 1955) Milwaukee goiter-a large midsection as the result of drinking too much beer over a period of time. 1960) Nigger heaven-the cheaper balcony seats in a theater. Nothing is said. 1953).. Dec. 1956) Nigger bait-(excess) chrome on an automobile. even though lowering an automobile is approved 0 Milt Machlin and William Read Woodfield. Cf. if that is the word. 1961." (Los Angeles. supra. any car which has had its leaf springs shackled. (Marsha Seid. 118. 22. Wentworth and Flexner also list the analogous "German goiter. 1961) Taco wagon-among hot rodders. pp. 1960) Puerto Rico Pendleton-an old work shirt. Los Angeles. Louis. Wentworth and Flexner enter this. 1." Argosy. African dominoes. 1956) Nigger rich-an adjectival expression. Mo. White usage only. Oklahoma credit card-known elsewhere as a "Kentucky credit card" or "Mexican credit card. 1960) Mississippi marbles-dice. the "players" take turns holding the revolver to their foreheads and pulling the trigger. 1960) Mexican valve job-flushing carbon from an automobile motor by pouring kerosene into the carburetor of a running car. the victims are lead past the open door of a room in which they are allowed to glimpse a prisoner in handcuffs. probably on the theory that the term was widely enough known to make this unnecessary.21 (Los Angeles.DERISIVE USE OF ETHNIC NAMES 33 Mexican two-step-dysentary.
it may indicate qualitatively.34 WESTERN FOLKLORE practice and not normally the subject of derision. California. (Gordon Wilson.-there as derisive adjectives. Placed within a cultural context. there may be more elsewhere. Similarily. 1960) Tijuana Bible-pornographic comic books. the term being replaced by some other regional or ethnic name. Los Angeles . "Mexican" as the modifier probably drops out of currency in those regions where Mexicans are not found in large numbers. the derisive adjective. long-held prejudices and cultural antagonisms. (Los Angeles. there are undoubtably many more terms in oral tradition. Palos Verde Estates. not only in California. if not quantitatively. either as a term or a pattern is not important. In itself. (Los Angeles. 1959) This list is a limited one. are few names of religions used in Southern California Surprisingly. 1947) Vatican roulette-the rhythm system of birth control. parodying well known comic strips. however. but in the rest of the country as well. in a three-inch by five-inch format. These are most often purchased over the California-Baja California border.
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