[extropy-chat] Redneck Transhumanists

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Sat Jul 3 21:38:42 UTC 2004

On Sat, 03 Jul 2004 16:14:46 -0500, Damien Broderick
<thespike at satx.rr.com> wrote:
> At 01:44 PM 7/3/2004 -0700, Olga wrote:
> >"The "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts
> >on File, New York, 1997) has this to say about the term: "REDNECK. A poor,
> >white, often rowdy southerner, usually one from a rural area. The word,
> >which is sometimes derogatory, has its origins in the sunburned necks of
> >farmers and outdoor laborers, and originally meant a poor farmer."
> My understanding (from an ancient biochemistry course I took in the '60s)
> is that it derived from the visual symptoms of the niacin deficiency
> disorder pellagra, marked by photosensitive dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia,
> and ultimately death. This disease was often found in poor farmers working
> wretched land.

Both could be correct.  <http://www.wordorigins.org/>

Redneck dates to 1830, when it was first used to denote the
Presbyterians of Fayetteville. The significance of the name is
somewhat obscure. Three explanations are commonly offered. First, it
could be a reference to a ruddy neck caused by anger. Second, it could
be a reference to sunburned necks caused by working in the fields all
day. Finally, it could be a reference to pellagra which turns the neck

There is also a tale in which it referred to striking coal miners who
wore red bandannas as a means of group identification. This is
unlikely due to what we know of its origin. The sunburn or pellagra
explanation seems more likely than the anger one.

Interestingly, the Afrikaans Rooinek, which literally means redneck,
is a disparaging term the Boers used to apply to the British and later
became associated with any European immigrant to South Africa.


Now, the origin of 'Red Herring' is much more interesting.  :)

Until over-fishing depleted their ranks, herring were so numerous and
so important as a staple foodstuff to both America and Europe that
many writers referred to the Atlantic Ocean as "the herring pond." The
downside of the little critters, however, is that they spoil very
rapidly and become inedible. The only practical way to preserve
herring is to cure them with a combination of salting and smoking, and
those herring most heavily cured turn a deep crimson color from the
process. Voila, red herring.

Curing herring in this fashion not only preserves the fish and changes
its color, but also gives it a distinctive smell, and thereby hangs
the modern meaning of "red herring." In training hounds to hunt foxes,
these red herrings, dragged on a string through the woods, were used
to lay down a trail of scent for the dogs to follow. There is also
some evidence that red herrings were, later in the training process,
sometimes dragged across the scent trail of a real fox to test the
ability of the hounds to ignore a false clue and stick to the scent of
the fox. From this practice comes our use of "red herring" to mean a
false clue or bogus issue designed to confuse one's opponent (or, in
the case of our recent election, the voters). "Red herring" first
appeared in the literal "smoked fish" sense around 1420, but the
figurative "phony issue or false clue" sense didn't appear until
around 1884.


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list