Yankee

happyhippo

Member
Chinese
For in 1848 there was suddenly a reason for every adventurous Yankee to head out to the West lickety-split.

Does Yankee here refer to Americans in general, from the north, or from New England?

Thanks!!
 
  • padredeocho

    Banned
    United States
    To most foreigners, Yankee is anybody who is from the USA. In the Western hemisphere, they often say Gringo instead.

    In the USA, a Yankee is somebody from mainly the New English area (Northeast). The Yankees are also a baseball team in the U.S. who play in New York City, and are hated by the fans of nearly every other team because they outspend every other team and get the best players yearly.
     

    dontaskme

    Member
    English, Europe
    For in 1848 there was suddenly a reason for every adventurous Yankee to head out to the West lickety-split.

    Does Yankee here refer to Americans in general, from the north, or from New England?

    Thanks!!
    My understanding is that it is Americans from the north, but can also be used to refer to Americans generally, as in "Yankee, go home!", which might have been heard in Vietnam, or more recently Iraq... :)
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Yankees were originally New Englanders.

    During the American Revolution, the redcoats overlooked regional differences (knickerbockers, for example) and called all rebels Yankees.

    During the Civil war, the "Yankee" came to mean any northerner from a Union state. Border-state people from Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware were not necessarily tarred with the same brush as Northeastern and especially Midwestern Yankees. But they were if they fought for the Union, even if they came from a Confederate state, like Tennessee (who supplied more Yankee soldiers than all the other Confederate states combined).

    The settlement of the West after the Civil War confused the issue for diehard Southerners. California and Oregon were Union states, so left-coasters are seen as the same kind of obnoxious and morally-reprehensible outsiders as their eastern Yankee counterparts, even by "flyover-country" Westerners, such as live in my neck of the woods.

    In WWII the British called Americans "Yanks," a term that had originated in WWI but wasn't as widespread. Southern-born Americans suffered an initial shock on hearing it, but mostly adjusted and suffered the term without any real resentment-- I believe we found it easy to regard the one-syllable version as a separate term, and took a "they don't know any better" attitude.

    I can't imagine why "Yankee" was used in a book about the Gold Rush, which happened before the Civil War-- possibly the book was written by a British author, who used the term in a carelessly retroactive manner?

    It has never been regarded as a synonym for all Americans by Americans.
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    giannid

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Someone once told me that the term Yankee originated by describing the Dutch in New Amsterdam (New York), many of whom were named Jan (pronounced Yan).

    This 1848 reference may refer to New Yorkers.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    "Yank" is commonly used in Australia to mean US American.

    According to the online etymology dictionary
    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=Yankee

    In 1683 Yankee was a disparaging term used by the Dutch in New Amsterdam [New York] for the English colonists in Connecticut.

    The shortened form Yank as a term for all Americans, dates from 1778.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Reading that sentence I would assume that the writer was specifically setting the term in historical context (ignoring for a moment the possibility of ffb's hypothetical carelessly retroactive Brit).

    In 1848, when the question is set, what would have been understood by the term Yankee?
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    panjandrum said:
    In 1848, when the question is set, what would have been understood by the term Yankee?
    First of all, this was 12 years before the Civil War started. Since the word Yankee was universally adopted by both sides as a term for a pro-Union American, particularly a soldier, there was obviously an association with people from somewhere in the north.

    The British use of the term for all Americans didn't "stick," and the Revolution was at least 3 generations ago in 1848, but the British fought a second war on American soil ending in 1815, so there was some basis, in living memory, to think of the dastardly word as denoting a larger region than New England.

    But for most people, in 1848, Yankee meant New Englander. Mark Twain, as I've mentioned, grew up in Antebellum days and yet lived into the 20th century. He would've been 13 in 1848, his earliest book was written just after the Civil War ended-- and "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" (a time-travel fantasy written for the juvenile market) was written in 1889.

    Twain was anything but a Southern sympathizer, though he was born and raised in a slave state, so he wouldn't have seen Yankee, as used during the war by the "enemy," to have been a derogatory term. He married a rich young lady from New York and, having lived his prior 35 years in rough parts of the country (including the mining camps and towns of California and Nevada in the 1860s) he lived out his life trying to reconcile his "roots" with the rigidly, indeed stiflingly genteel world of militant "respectability," which he loathed (to his wife's consternation) and satirized incorrigibly.

    This is sketchy as a bio, but I've gone into a certain amount of detail to put "a Connecticut Yankee" in perspective.

    Bottom line, this man knew more about the lower echelons of American life, and the culture of the "common man," than most anyone in the crowd he ran with as a mature adult. He knew the word Yankee in all its nuances and levels of meaning. He used it in the strictest sense in his book title-- but he was an unflowery stylist with an efficient style, and would not have allowed a redundancy like "Connecticut Yankee" if he hadn't felt it was necessary for his readers to understand in what sense of the word he was using Yankee.

    From this I struggle to infer what the word meant to the population at large in antebellum 1848.My educated guess would be-- an American from the north. To people outside New England and the Middle Atlantic states, "north" would've been a variable concept, as indeed it is today. The less educated or savvy about history the people were, the larger that "northern" zone would be, especially if they came from anywhere west of the Mississippi and south of the Missouri river.

    When Iowan regiments came back from the War calling themselves Yankees, many at home who'd thought of the Northeast as a faraway place, might've had to make an adjustment.

    I don't believe the Northern press took up the term in an honorific sense during the war, and I have reason to believe Yankee remained a much more regional term in the North.

    This Wiki article about the Yankees baseball team shows that they were called the Highlanders, and "Yankees" was a nickname they picked up during a time when the the AL was considered by many to be a minor-league team, and the Highlanders were building an undeniably "major" team by buying up the best players they could find, most notably from the Boston Red Sox. I theorize that the nickname arose because of the presence of so many New Englanders on a New York team, and the first time it was ever seen in print was in reference (in a Boston newspaper) to an ex-Red Soxer named Dougherty.

    So even after the turn of the 20th century, during the height of the deluge years of immigration and assimilation, there was some sense that calling New Yorkers Yankees was stretching things a little.

    But this was in the north. In the South, as I've said, anyone from a state that fought in the Union was still a damn Yankee-- for what little light that sheds on the Antebellum usage we're discussing.
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    jdenson

    Senior Member
    USA / English
    For in 1848 there was suddenly a reason for every adventurous Yankee to head out to the West lickety-split.

    Does Yankee here refer to Americans in general, from the north, or from New England?

    Thanks!!
    I love this definition of "yankee", attibuted to E.B. White:
    To foreigners, a Yankee is an American.
    To Americans, a Yankee is a Northerner.

    To Easterners, a Yankee is a New Englander.
    To New Englanders, a Yankee is a Vermonter.
    And in Vermont, a Yankee is somebody who eats pie for breakfast.
    JD
     

    languageGuy

    Senior Member
    USA and English
    For in 1848 there was suddenly a reason for every adventurous Yankee to head out to the West lickety-split.

    Does Yankee here refer to Americans in general, from the north, or from New England?

    Thanks!!
    At this point in time, the American economy was divided into three main segments: the rich plantation owners of the South, the wage earners of the industrial North, and the farm families of the mid-West. I think the lure of easy money and California gold was felt strongest by those poor hard-working Yankees in the North.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    languageGuy said:
    At this point in time, the American economy was divided into three main segments: the rich plantation owners of the South, the wage earners of the industrial North, and the farm families of the mid-West. I think the lure of easy money and California gold was felt strongest by those poor hard-working Yankees in the North.
    Let me guess-- you didn't grow up on a farm, right? I can't think of any other kind of life where families and communities have a harder time getting young people to stay the course, and make the life they were raised into-- their future.

    And "felt strongest" is a statement about someone else's subjectivity, from the vantage point of yours.

    In our family, who pioneered California, the forty-niner was Nathan "Ump" Ferris, who was born in a log cabin in upstate New York and pioneered the Illinois Prairie with a group of related families.

    He had the quirk of growing crops for seed rather than "product"-- timothy, for example. He grew mustardseed, kegged it up and rafted it down to New Orleans to make a killing there-- I guess he broke a bit better than even.

    He developed popcorn as a consumer good, and accompanied a shipload of barrels of it to England, to establish a market for it there. Victoria and Albert got wind of it and invited him for an audience, to explain and demonstrate the wonderful stuff.

    Then he went running off to the goldfields of California in 1849, where he perished a year later from a well-placed kick by a horse. His wife survived him by 28 years, and didn't move to California when the rest of the family did so en masse, to grow oranges. Safer than mining gold, I guess.

    I wish I knew whether we considered ourselves Yankees back then-- probably did, but we saw ourselves as New Englanders, having pioneered that place in the mid-1600s.
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    languageGuy

    Senior Member
    USA and English
    I didn't mean to suggest that farmily farmers or even rich plantation owners didn't rush to California, only that that is what I thought the author was suggesting.

    (I did grow-up on a farm, and in New England. I was one of those rare Yankee farmers. For me, it wasn't the lure of California that drew me away, but the lure of high technology.)
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    languageGuy said:
    I didn't mean to suggest that farmily farmers or even rich plantation owners didn't rush to California, only that that is what I thought the author was suggesting.

    (I did grow-up on a farm, and in New England. I was one of those rare Yankee farmers. For me, it wasn't the lure of California that drew me away, but the lure of high technology.)
    My bad guesswork about your origins!

    Still, your post seems to be your own analysis-- we still don't know any more context about this 1848 writer and what he meant by "Yankee."

    You know, when my wife or daughter bake a pie, I'm sure to have a slice for breakfast. Do you think that N.E. Yankee stuff is something you're born with? For me it's been four, five generations since we left for parts westward.
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    Kevman

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I wonder where the author of the line is from. The use of the term "lickety-split" seems intended to imitate a dialect here, and I think the use of "Yankee" could be meant to fall into the same register.

    Whether or not this was written by an American, I immediately interpreted "Yankee" to refer to Americans in general, since the scenario sets up a distinction between east and west, rather than north and south.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    All this effort, so stupidly wasted. The original poster has never given us any futther context, nor a word about who wrote the damn quote.

    Look at it again, everybody. 1848 is only mentioned. Nowhere is there any indication that this vague blurb about "Yankees" wasn't written by some Sri Lankan historian a couple weeks ago.

    I feel so used.
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    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Aw come on ffb, don't feel so bad.
    Some of us found the information and and analysis presented here to be completely fascinating - and very much appreciated.
    Let me see if I can find a mess of voles for you:)
     

    ulrika

    Senior Member
    English/Spanish (I don't know where I'm from anymore)
    I loved the analysis! And I loved the E.B. White definition! Hey, I'd love to eat some pie for breakfast. Does that make me a Yankee wannabe? I'm certainly moving to New Haven next year...
     

    happyhippo

    Member
    Chinese
    All this effort, so stupidly wasted. The original poster has never given us any futther context, nor a word about who wrote the damn quote.

    Look at it again, everybody. 1848 is only mentioned. Nowhere is there any indication that this vague blurb about "Yankees" wasn't written by some Sri Lankan historian a couple weeks ago.

    I feel so used.
    .
    I'm the original poster :p Sorry I didn't reply earlier because I didn't get online till now today (my time zone is GMT+8). Thank all of you very much for the replies, especially those of foxfirebrand!!

    I'll give more information about this excerpt. It is taken from an article titled "Go West, Young Man! Go West!" written by Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert MacNeil in 1986 (They are most probably British!). This article, again, is taken from The Story of English. Now I'll provide the whole paragraph in which the excerpt appears:

    After the beaver trade collapsed many of the old trappers and scouts found new business as guides when Oregon fever swept the Mississippi in the early 1840s. But this latest migration was nothing compared to what was to follow. For in 1848, there was suddenly a reason for every adventurous Yankee to head out to the West lickety-split. The reason? Gold fever-a phrase that had entered the language at a gallop the year before.

    Thank all of you again for your help!! :)
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Thanks for the clarification, happyhippo-- so it would seem the word Yankee was used a little too sweepingly. I agree though, that it did sweep us up into an interesting round of exchanges.

    Mmmmm. Piiiiiie!
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