How did the derogatory term “cracker” originate?

by Mike on March 19, 2010

“Cracker” is an old term that was used primarily in the South, especially in Georgia and Florida, to poor whites and hill dwellers. The term in this sense dates back at least to the time of the Revolution. Although early uses leave the origin of the term in doubt, most authorities regard it as a shortened form of corncracker, which refers to the fact that cracked com was long the chief article of food among this class of people. This theory receives some confirmation in the fact that in Kentucky the same class of peo’ple are popularly called “corncrackers,” a name applied in several other states to the Kentuckians themselves. In Americanisms; the English of the New World, published in 1872, M. Schele de Vere wrote: “A corncracker is looked upon as so low a person- that he is simply called ‘a , cracker; he inhabits the low, unproductive regions near the sea-shore, and besides his generic name derived from the chief article of his diet, he appears as Conch or Low Downer in North Carolina, and as Sandhiller or Poor “White Trash in South Carolina and Georgia. Even in Florida he is found occasionally, leading a wretched life in the woods, and resembling in his habits the worst of .the old Indians. The Crackers of North Carolina are, perhaps, the poorest of them all.” Some authorities hold that cracker was originally applied contemptuously by those living in cities to the country people because the latter were fond of cracking large buckskin whips. In King John Shakespeare employed cracker in the sense of a boaster, braggart or liar. At any rate, the term ‘ is now widely applied as a popular nickname to Georgians, and Georgia is known as the “Cracker State.”

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