Saturday, November 08, 2008

Are You Familiar With "Coonass"?

Have you folks who live outside of Louisiana ever heard of this word? I'm beginning to think this word might be unique to this area because I haven't heard it used outside of the south.

"Coonass" sounds kind of offensive if you don't know what it means, but it's almost looked at as a badge of pride. It's sort of used by the same class of folks who'd probably just be considered or consider themselves "rednecks" if they lived in other places, but there's a definite difference between the two.

Both terms are used here. "Rednecks" is sometimes used pejoratively to describe poor white people, in general. However, "coonasses" refers to those whites of a particular background, namely, Cajuns. It really isn't an insult. It's more like a signifier that people use to identify themselves as members of this group that has historically been looked down on and discriminated against, even by other poor whites.

12 comments:

Jezebella said...

I think it's pretty local.

I used the term "coonass" amongst a bunch of midwestern folks at a meeting last year, and a horrified hush erupted in the room. They thought it was a racial slur. Most embarrassing.

I use it the same way you do, with the same meaning.

AnnMarie Kneebone said...

I am not familiar with this term. I does sound offensive, but I believe you that it is now. Many years ago I had a close friend who was Cajun - from St. Charles. He never used the word.

I know the words "hick" and "redneck" from personal experience. Those are insults. I grew up on a farm and sometimes I guess I talk "country" and do things in a "country way." What? Just cause I'd rather fix my own bicycle or make my own peanut butter ...

Stentor said...

I've lived in PA, upstate NY, MA, and AZ, and I've never heard it.

Another Conflict Theorist said...

The first time I heard it was when it was casually used by a friend of mine in from Louisiana. She's white and, as you can well imagine, I felt that she needed to explain herself - and right away. I'm thinking the term is VERY regional, and people use it almost lovingly.

dmarks said...

I'd never heard of the term before. I would have assumed it referred to people of African descent, because the first half resembles one of those unfortunate other racial slurs.

Kristin said...

Yeah, I never heard in in my neck of the woods (North Carolina). There, we actually used "redneck" similarly to the way you describe "coonass." Anyway, since "coon" being a racial slur, I'm guessing that that may be where the confusion and discomfort comes in from people who haven't heard the term before.

JGH said...

Where I was growing up in Florida, my neighbors would refer to themselves proudly as "crackers" and I never believed them to be racist. To them, a "Florida cracker" was someone who was born and raised in Florida. Later I learned the true history of the word, and have been a little afraid of it ever since. I don't think I've ever heard "coonass" here in NY or in FL.

Zan said...

Well, I've heard it before...but that's cause about half my family are a buncha damned Coonies :)

dmarks said...

When I hear the term "Cracker", I can't help but think of Farrakhan and others who use it outright as a racial slur.

I just can't imagine "coonass" reaching any sort of acceptable national use. The resemblance of the first half to the "coon" racial epithet will always be there. Just like hardly anyone uses the word "niggardly" because it just sounds too much like something else.

Anthony Kennerson said...

Take it from a native of Acadiana:

"Coonass" simply = "Cajun Redneck".

We deal with 'em all the time down here in the South Louisiana bayous.


Anthony

dmarks said...

Oh yes, I know now. But without that explanation, I would have assumed that the word meant the same as the N-word with ass after it, only slightly milder.

suzzyq said...

I was born in Oregon in 1956 and lived there untill last year. Now I live in Austin Texas and I had never heard anybody in Oregon say coonass untill I moved to Texas.I'am sure it's a regional thing. I did read "Blue Highways" Great Book !The book is about a guy that drives from Missouri and covers most all the states and stops at little towns along the way , he stops in a east Texas Bar and the coonass at the bar has some fun with him. That's all I know about the term.