Somehow, I found this particularly relevant as I had to fly down to Nashvegas last weekend to attend a visitation day for students who were accepted into one of the Masters programs for which I had applied. I had been reading this book, How the Scots Invented the Modern World, for over a month now, but graduate school applications and full-blown Oscar season had put a bit of a hamper over my reading time. But on the flight from Atlanta to Nashville, I came upon this passage, discussing the diaspora of Scottish folk to the Colonies and how they spread out through the mid-Atlantic and the South.
“Placenames and language reflected their northern Irish or southern Lowlands origins. They said “whar” for “where,” “thar” for “there,” “critter” for “creature,” “nekkid” for “naked,” “widder” for “widow,” and “young-uns” for “young ones.” They were always “fixin'” to do something, or go “sparkin'” instead of “courting,” and the young ‘uns “growed up” instead of “grew up.” As David Hackett Fisher has suggested, these were the first utterings of the American dialect of Appalachian mountaineers, cowboys, truck drivers, and backcountry politicians. The language was also shamelessly intimate and earthy: passersby were addressed as “honey” and children as “little shits.” They dubbed local landmarks Gallows Branch or Cutthroat Gap or Shitbritches Creek (in North Carolina). In Lunenberg County, Virginia, they even named two local streams Tickle Cunt Branch and Fucking Creek.
Neighbors, including the Indians, soon learned to treat them with respect, not to say fear. One Englishman described an Ulster Scot neighbor: “His look spoke out that he would not fear the devil, should he meet him face to face.” They did not bear much resemblance to their compatriot, Francis Hutcheson. Instead Ulster Scots were quick-tempered, inclined to hard work followed by bouts of boisterous leisure and heavy drinking (they were the first distillers of whisky in the New World, employing native corn and rye instead of Scottish barley), and easy to provoke into fighting. The term used to describe them was rednecks, a Scots border term meaning Presbyterians. Another was cracker, from the Scots word craik for “talk,” meaning a loud talker or braggart. Both words became permanent parts of the American language, and a permanent identity of the Deep South the Ulster Scots created.
So there you go. A mystery explained and a culture clarified. The book itself is highly fascinating and I suggest it to anyone interested in sociology, American culture, European history, or really much of anything that happened in the past 300 years or so.