'yokel' and 'country bumpkin' offensive?

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  • moo mouse

    Senior Member
    English UK
    They are quite derogatory, generally, but can be used as a joke/to tease someone (a friend) and I think you wouldn't expect the person to be too offended!
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Both terms imply ignorance (to the point of stupidity), naivete and backwardsness born of living in the country and not being exposed to 'the wonders of the Big City." If you think you are on good terms with a person, you might use them, but I think they are more than mildly bigoted. I've heard people use them in reference to themselves as a joke more than I've heard someone use them to refer to others as a joke; it's usually serious when speaking of "them." It is a stereotype of someone easily impresssed and easily duped.

    Personally, I would be cautious in their use. They smack of the superior attitude of an urbanite.
     

    vachecow

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I don't know anyone who would be offended by these. In fact, if someone were to use one of these, people would probably think that the user was the stupid one.
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    If a stranger called me one of these terms, I'd be angry, I think. Even if the person were kidding, I'd still take it as a passive/aggressive way to slight me. Because, while there are a lot worse names to call someone, I can't think of an instance where someone you didn't know would use them in a friendly way.

    Now, if a friend said that to me, it might be different.

    But, in general, I agree with James.



    AngelEyes
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I'd agree that "country bumpkin" is an older term, but the question was "are they offensive?" Their meaning is not complimentary by any stretch of the imagination. The link that mplsray provided gives you a great stereotypical image of a yokel.
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    All these terms are very offensive. If that's your intention you can also try "local yokel" and "hick".

    I didn't research the origin of these terms, what makes you think country bumpkin is older than yokel?
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    A small dose of etymology, courtesy of Online Etymology Dictionary:

    Bumpkin - "awkward country fellow," 1570, probably from M.Du. bommekijn "little barrel," dim. of boom "tree." Apparently began as a derogatory reference to Dutch people as short and dumpy.

    Yokel - 1812, perhaps from dial. Ger. Jokel, disparaging name for a farmer, originally dim. of Jakob. Or perhaps from Eng. yokel, dialectal name for "woodpecker."
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    A small dose of etymology, courtesy of Online Etymology Dictionary:

    Bumpkin - "awkward country fellow," 1570, probably from M.Du. bommekijn "little barrel," dim. of boom "tree." Apparently began as a derogatory reference to Dutch people as short and dumpy.

    Yokel - 1812, perhaps from dial. Ger. Jokel, disparaging name for a farmer, originally dim. of Jakob. Or perhaps from Eng. yokel, dialectal name for "woodpecker."
    Thank you very much, for the research and even more for the reference to "Online Etymology Dictionary". This helps explain why I didn't remember the start of the usage of yokel, it's before my time :)
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    This helps explain why I didn't remember the start of the usage of yokel, it's before my time :)
    And you think it's not before ours? ;)

    By "older", I meant that it sounds outdated compared to "yokel." "Local yokel" is still a phrase heard these days in many contexts, but "country bumpkin" would be pretty rare, in my experience.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    All these terms are very offensive. If that's your intention you can also try "local yokel" and "hick".

    I didn't research the origin of these terms, what makes you think country bumpkin is older than yokel?
    The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., dates bumpkin to 1570 and yokel to "circa 1812."

    Bumpkin strikes me as an old-fashioned term. While I would not be particularly surprised to hear yokel used nowadays, I would be surprised to hear someone use bumpkin.

    Both terms are offensive. Hillbilly has achieved a limited acceptance by those who are described by that term, particularly people living the hills and mountains of Appalachia. But nothing like that has happened with either yokel or bumpkin.
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    It is not that uncommon for me to hear people in the big city of Atlanta refer to people in the not that distant rural areas as country bumpkins, yokels, or hicks.

    The term is always derogatory.
     

    moo mouse

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I am pretty sure that in BE, country bumpkin is used more often than yokel - certainly down in the west country (of England) where it is most often applicable!
     

    Paulfromitaly

    MODerator
    Italian
    Yes, but obviously they are not mutually exclusive.
    I'm not sure I get what you mean..
    I'd call "townie" someone who's always lived in a town/city and doesn't know much about the rural affairs/habits/life and I'd call "bumpkin" someone who's always lived in the countryside and doesn't know too much about the city habits/life.
    Am I wrong at all?
    How can those two terms be not mutually exclusive?
     

    moo mouse

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Ok, sorry I wasn't really thinking - I didn't mean mutually exclusive (wrong expression) I just meant that you can live in a town without being a townie and likewise you can live in the country without being a bumpkin. In other words not everyone is either one or the other of these things! But this was probably pretty obvious - sorry for the added confusion!
     

    Paulfromitaly

    MODerator
    Italian
    Ok, sorry I wasn't really thinking - I didn't mean mutually exclusive (wrong expression) I just meant that you can live in a town without being a townie and likewise you can live in the country without being a bumpkin. In other words not everyone is either one or the other of these things! But this was probably pretty obvious - sorry for the added confusion!
    That's alright: now I get you :)
     

    clairanne

    Senior Member
    english UK
    hi

    Us "country bumpkins" use "townie" as a mild friendly derogatory expression for "Urbanites" and I have heard it all my life (53 years) - I would not expect anyone to be offended by it.

    In the south of England, where I live, there are lots of "townie" incomers and we refer to ourselves as "the local Yokels" when we moan about them buying up all our country properties for their holiday homes.
     

    Paulfromitaly

    MODerator
    Italian
    hi

    In the south of England, where I live, there are lots of "townie" incomers and we refer to ourselves as "the local Yokels" when we moan about them buying up all our country properties for their holiday homes.
    Quite funny: I bet Scots moan about English townies for exactly the same reasons you do ;)
    Now I wonder: which term is more common in UK? Yokel or Bumpkin?
     

    Leporello

    Member
    USA, English
    "Country bumpkin" is a cliché: that is one reason why it sounds dated. Even as clichés go, it is badly conceived, because pleonastic: the word "bumpkin" signifies someone from the country; to say "country bumpkin" is to make a thoughtless use of words. The word "bumpkin" itself, however, is part of my active vocabulary, along with its synonyms "hick," "yokel," and "rube"-- delightful words all of them; though I recognize that "rube" is now little used and perhaps not even widely known.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    "Country bumpkin" is a cliché: that is one reason why it sounds dated. Even as clichés go, it is badly conceived, because pleonastic: the word "bumpkin" signifies someone from the country; to say "country bumpkin" is to make a thoughtless use of words. The word "bumpkin" itself, however, is part of my active vocabulary, along with its synonyms "hick," "yokel," and "rube"-- delightful words all of them; though I recognize that "rube" is now little used and perhaps not even widely known.
    I'd say that country bumpkin is a fixed expression rather than a cliché. A cliché is a phrase that would once have been considered fresh or clever but is now considered tired. But I expect country bumpkin was always a very ordinary expression, and since it would not have been considered clever, it would not have been a candidate for becoming a cliché.

    In any case, not only does the online Encarta dictionary (representing North American usage) give country bumpkin a separate entry from bumpkin (identifying it as a synonym for bumpkin), but the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary gives country bumpkin as a variant under its entry for bumpkin. (Neither one gives a usage note advising against the expression.) I don't know about British speakers, but I doubt you could find many Americans nowadays who know that bumpkin by itself can mean "stupid country person." I myself had no idea that anyone might use it with that meaning until reading this thread. (If you had asked me what it meant, I would have hazarded the guess "stupid fellow," but would have supposed it to be a linguistic fossil stuck in the phrase country bumpkin.)

    By the way, under the entry bumpkin, the online 1913 Webster's Dictionary cites Washington Irving's reference to "country bumpkins" in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."
     

    clairanne

    Senior Member
    english UK
    Hi again

    re: I bet Scots moan about English townies for exactly the same reasons you do ;)

    I am quite sure that all places in UK and a lot of other countries complain about incomers - it is just human nature really. Holiday makers are called "grokels" - sorry if it's spelt wrong in the South West- I bet the locals there would miss them though if nobody came down there one year.

    I don't think of either "yokel" or "country bumpkin" (by the way I have only heard the two words combined in my area) one is used more than the other as they are interchangeable. I think the reason we get called this(in a light hearted way) is because the country accents in the south of England are spoken fairly slowly with drawn out vowels and so it is easy to joke that we are stupid and take longer than others to think. I do not and would never consider this to be in any way offensive.
     

    Suilan

    Senior Member
    Germany (NRW)
    Imagine, you're from the country, living in a big city. You meet 1-10 people a day who feel compelled to make some witty comment about you being a yokel, a bumpkin, a whatever.

    One possible reaction, you turn your ears on deaf. Another possibilty: you get annoyed, thinking: oh please, people, can't you think of a new line?

    It's different if a friend teases you about a unique character traits of yours, because he knows you well. But with everyone knowing you from the country, and everyone trying to be witty, I'm of the latter type: please, people, come up with a new line!

    In my case, the offensive term is not bumpkin, but "fish head," because I was born up north ("only" some 200km off the north sea coast) and live down south. Another insult I really hate is "Prussian" (even though I'm a fan of the Old Fritz.) But try explaining to the southerners here that the Hohenzollern family came from "down here" in the first place. They are likely to reply: Who's talking about Hohenzollern? Those are Austrian, aren't they? Not. The Austrian imperial family were the Habsburger, check your history books.) After two years of this, you get VERY sick of it. (Now, it's 14 years later.) I have no patience whatsoever left for people who insist on calling me either. Go, leave, be witty elsewhere.

    Just my personal opinion. . .

    P.S. Both fish head and Prussian are very common, very "popular" names for someone from up north; the speakers like to claim that they mean no offense. If you do take offense, there's something wrong with you. You really need to loosen up.
     

    clairanne

    Senior Member
    english UK
    RE:Are you serious?

    Of course I am, why should it worry me? My brother calls me "fatty" and that hurts far more as he is someone who is close to me. It is not something that would be used as an insult - People do not really hurl insults at each other on a regular basis in Sussex - we are too polite.
     

    denverjomo

    New Member
    English - American
    A small dose of etymology, courtesy of Online Etymology Dictionary:

    Bumpkin - "awkward country fellow," 1570, probably from M.Du. bommekijn "little barrel," dim. of boom "tree." Apparently began as a derogatory reference to Dutch people as short and dumpy.

    Yokel - 1812, perhaps from dial. Ger. Jokel, disparaging name for a farmer, originally dim. of Jakob. Or perhaps from Eng. yokel, dialectal name for "woodpecker."
    Darn. What got me looking at the etymology for Yokel was my thought that it may have derived from the Icelandic term Jokull which is a glacier (i.e., something very slow moving).
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I don't think country bumpkin is a pleonasm. If it was, then an urban bumpkin would be a logical impossibility.

    I can think of many people who wouldn't like to be called a bumpkin, but not so many would mind it being said of them that they came from, or lived in, the country.
     

    manon33

    Senior Member
    English - England (Yorkshire)
    Both terms imply ignorance (to the point of stupidity), naivete and backwardsness born of living in the country and not being exposed to 'the wonders of the Big City." If you think you are on good terms with a person, you might use them, but I think they are more than mildly bigoted. I've heard people use them in reference to themselves as a joke more than I've heard someone use them to refer to others as a joke; it's usually serious when speaking of "them." It is a stereotype of someone easily impresssed and easily duped.

    Personally, I would be cautious in their use. They smack of the superior attitude of an urbanite.
    I agree unreservedly (although I have heard urbanites use even worse terms of abuse than these about the rural population).
     

    Leporello

    Member
    USA, English
    I don't think country bumpkin is a pleonasm. If it was, then an urban bumpkin would be a logical impossibility.
    The jarring sound of "urban bumpkin" proves my point--as if the already cited definitions of "bumpkin" did not already do so. Such an oxymoronic combination of words is made possible by the same kind of twist of meaning as allows us to say "clever idiot" to speak of someone who possesses mental ability but puts it into the service of foolish ideas. I have never come across the expression "urban bumpkin," but I would understand it exactly as I would understand "urban yokel" or "urban hick": it would have to mean a person who comes from the city but who is backward in culture and parochial in outlook in the ways commonly attributed by city-dwellers to country-dwellers.
     

    Leporello

    Member
    USA, English
    Some little barrels can be found in cities. My point was that there's nothing in the etymology to imply that bumpkins must be rural.
    That's fine if you are speaking 16th-century Dutch. What is pertinent is how the word is used in English. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the gloss "An awkward country fellow, a clown," with illustrative texts dating as far back as 1570. The attribution of the word's origin to a Dutch word meaning "barrel" plays no role in governing how the word is used now or even how it was used 500 years ago. In fact, that attribution is conjectural. The etymological note in the OED entry reads:
    The curious gloss in the first quot. suggests that bunkin (presumably the same word) was a humorous appellation for a Dutchman, and meant a man with short stumpy figure. The word may be < Dutch boomken ‘little tree’ (Hexham); compare bumkin n.1 It may however be < Middle Dutch bommekijn ‘little barrel’, or < bum n.1 + -kin suffix.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Language is moving on. A lot of people are humorously calling themselves urban bumpkins now, e.g. That's just one of a putative 68,000 on Google.

    There are also town bumpkins to be considered: here's a small-town one: Deeds, it is discovered, works in his friend Jans pizzeria in New Hampshire and is in fact a small-town bumpkin

    The point remains that the potentially offensive part of the epithet is bumpkin, not country.
     
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