a big, dim cracker

susanna76

Senior Member
Romanian
Hi,

Here's from An Innocent Client by Scott Pratt:
"Jimmy Brown, a big, dim cracker with a butch haircut who had worked his way up through patrol and was finally, after twenty years, an investigator with the Johnson City police, was leaning over the bed."

Do you think he's using cracker to simply mean person, as you would with cookie instead of cracker? I'm confused because the dictionary gives a specific meaning, "braggart, boaster," to cracker.

Thank you!
 
  • GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    "Cracker" is a usually disparaging term for poor, uneducated, rural white people from the southern United States. It cannot be considered a general term for person because it refers to a person of a specific race, and of a specific social class, who comes from a specific region.
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Man, that's terrible how you get so very little from dictionaries, after all. Thank you, GWB!

    What about cookie though? Is cookie safe?
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    "Cookie" is (old-fashioned) slang for a (cute) young woman. I don't think he looks like a cute girl with butch haircut (very short hair).
    You've picked definition 7 out of 9 as if it is the only definition of "cracker".
    (If you're looking at the definition of "cracker" as a thin biscuit, remember that AmE biscuits aren't cookies. BrE biscuits are AmE cookies.)
     
    Last edited:

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    What about cookie though? Is cookie safe?
    Safe? What do you mean, "safe"? Are you asking if "cookie" is an appropriate equivalent for "cracker" in this sentence? If so, then the answer is "Absolutely not!!!!!" The writer is describing the police officer as a southern white man from a rural, lower-social-class background. There is nothing whatsoever in the word "cookie" that would suggest any of those things.
     

    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    Definitely not "cookie". I've never seen or heard it used for a person, and if I did, I would presume it was a nickname for a boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse.

    The word "cracker" for white people does not come from the word for the food. It comes from "whip-cracker", someone who cracks a whip (at his slaves).
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Thank you, Myridon, GWB, and Delvo!
    That etymology is very interesting, Delvo!
    GWB: By "safe" I meant safe to use with the meaning "person." I was the impression that cookie meant person. I never looked it in the dictionary before. I am doing it now, and see that it can actually mean two things:
    Slang.
    1. a person:
      a smart cookie; a tough cookie.
    2. an alluring young woman.
    So, Myridon, would it be wrong to use "smart cookie" about a man?
    P.S. The posts here suggests both meanings are used:
    What does it mean to be a sharp cookie?
     
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    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    As far as I know, meaning 1 is only used in those set phrases/idioms in modern American English. (I associate those terms with black-and-white, film noir movies about gangsters and detectives.)
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    The word "cracker" for white people does not come from the word for the food. It comes from "whip-cracker", someone who cracks a whip (at his slaves).
    This etymology is highly unlikely, being contrary to the social class of the persons described, and contradicted by earlier evidence. Note, for example, the June 27, 1766 letter from Captain Gavin Cochrane to the Earl of Dartmouth (who would become Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1772) in which Cochrane says "I should explain to your Lordship what is meant by Crackers; a name they have got from being great boasters; they are a lawless set of rascalls on the frontiers of Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, and Georgia, who often change their places of abode." Other possible explanations (although less likely than that provided by Cochrane) involve cracking corn as a cheap food, or cracking a whip while driving cattle -- but there appears to be no relationship whatsoever with slave-driving.
     

    Sparky Malarky

    Moderator
    English - US
    Thank you, Myridon, GWB, and Delvo!
    That etymology is very interesting, Delvo!
    GWB: By "safe" I meant safe to use with the meaning "person." I was the impression that cookie meant person. I never looked it in the dictionary before. I am doing it now, and see that it can actually mean two things:
    Slang.
    1. a person:
      a smart cookie; a tough cookie.
    2. an alluring young woman.
    So, Myridon, would it be wrong to use "smart cookie" about a man?
    P.S. The posts here suggests both meanings are used:
    What does it mean to be a sharp cookie?
    You are correct - smart cookie, and tough cookie are both still used. A smart/sharp cookie is a smart person, or someone who has done something clever. "Beverly got a big tax refund back. She's one smart cookie!" A tough cookie is a person who's tough. "Brenda barely flinched when the doctor set her broken arm. She's one tough cookie!" I think both of these are used more often for women than men, but I could be wrong.

    I've never heard a woman referred to as simply a cookie - perhaps this is an antiquated use.
     
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