Define these terms, baby.

Posted by admin on December 28th, 2009 filed in General, Language, Moving

I knew “yankee” was what British people called all Americans, and I was aware that southern people in the USA used this term to refer to northern people.  It used to be a word I could go, like, years without hearing unless it was referencing the sports team.  Now I’m getting the definite impression that it’s an insult.  It hasn’t been directed at me, but I have heard it at the store several times.

What is a catbird?  Both my kids have been called this since we moved here.

The first time I lived here, I was on the campus of the university.  There was a nice mix of people because students came from all over to attend the school.  Now we live in a residential area outside city limits and we shop at the local stores that are outside the range of most college kids.  It’s a very different and much more homogeneous experience.

6 Responses to “Define these terms, baby.”

  1. marguerite Says:

    When I was in SC after Lily was born people would refer to me as a “yankee” or they would say “from the the north”. Like when we went for our adoption hearing the lawyer said “I don’t think you will have any problems….except that you are from the north”. Haha…I def think people from the south consider yankee or similar terms insults.

  2. admin Says:

    Isn’t it interesting that when you live in the north, being “from the north” isn’t really part of your identity, yet down here (and I didn’t realize this counted as the south, but I guess it was defined by the Civil War aka The War of Northern Aggression) being “from the South” is consciously part of the identity?

  3. Ingrid Says:

    Yankee = insult – a co-worker of mine has several family members who to this day will not speak to her and they still tell her mama how sorry they are – because she married a yankee (this was 11 years ago) Her dad finally likes him because he finally believes he is from the midwest and not the north.

    I’ll ask her tomorrow if she has any clue what a catbird is…..

  4. Jo Says:

    Could a catbird be related to a “shitbird?” Tim’s Grandfather used to call his Grandchildren this, you know, as an endearment. My Granddad used to call us something like “posciuttia” which I think translates into little hams or something (from Italian). I always got the feeling that it was along the same lines as “shitbird” though!

    And I find it totally laughable that anyone who lives where it snows would call anyone else a “yankee.”

    There must be a breed of southerners who make a big deal out of their “southernnness” the same way that a lot of people around here make such a big deal about their “appalachianness.” I never heard much talk about Yankees in Gainesville because so many people from Florida are from somewhere else.

    Doesn’t “yankee” also imply urban (as an insult) too? I think of those who use “yankee” as an insult to be more rural, the kind who might embrace Sarah Palin’s notion of rural=real America.

    Ingrid, your co-worker has my deep sympathy! Imagine when there are so many relevant ways to measure a person, to get hung up so profoundly on such a trivial one.

  5. admin Says:

    Hmmm, just looked up catbird on Urban Dictionary:
    A panty dropper? A pussy chaser? I think I’m just going to assume they were saying my kids were little charmers. Yes, that’s it. I always feel kind of weird when someone calls the kids “little shits” or the like.

  6. Jo Says:

    Yes, feces as a term of endearment is a bit of a puzzler isn’t it?