Hey, honky! The origin of the world’s most heinous racial slur

by Santino J. Rivera on April 17, 2013 in Cultura


Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor on SNL

POCHO Jefe-in-Chief Lalo Alcaraz‘s recent article about the word gringo ignited a shitstorm of debate. White people came out of the woodwork to declare how they’ve been traumatized all these years because of it.

This got me thinking about racial slurs and how we use them in these oh-so-modern times. Rand Paul used the term chili-choking pepper bellies the other day when he was talking about immigration reform. What’s the gringo equivalent of a chili-choking pepper belly? Twinky-gagging sugar gut? Sounds stupid, right?

“You cornbread-gobbling butter stomach!”

This made me think of one of the most dreaded racial slurs of all time for white people: honky, also spelled honkey. And whenever I think about the word honky I think of the classic SNL skit (video, above) with Richard Pyror and Chevy Chase, which ends with Richard Pryor becoming very upset and calling Chase a “dead honky.”

Everyone laughs.

On the TV series The Jeffersons, George Jefferson regularly referred to a white person as a “honky” (or “whitey”) as did Redd Foxx on Sanford and Son. This word would later be popularized in episodes of Mork & Mindy by Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters.

But what’s a honky, really? Does anyone know? Do people even use that word any more? Is it politically incorrect to say, “Hey, honky! Get the hell off my lawn!”

Fox News would say “yes”…and they would want reparations.

If Quentin Tarantino made a film tomorrow with gratuitous use of the word “honky”, would anyone care? Would there be riots by white people demanding respect? A million-honky march? Petitions to the Whitehouse to ban the word “honky”?

These are strange days.

One of my hobbies is etymology. So naturally, I looked into the etymology of the word honky. The results may surprise you.

According to Wikipedia, “honky is a racial slur for white people, predominantly heard in the United States and Great Britain” (real quick, say “honky” with a British accent). The first recorded use of honky possibly dates back to 1946 but exact origins of the word are unknown, although “honky tonk” music goes back even further than that.

It is believed that honky may be a variant of the word “hunky,” which is a deviation of Bohunk, a slur for Bohemian-Hungarian immigrants in the early 1900’s. How offensive!

Others believe that honky may have come from coal miners in Oak Hill, West Virginia. The miners were segregated (of course) and European “foreigners” who couldn’t speak English were separated from both blacks and whites into an area known as “Hunk Hill”. Thus, they called them “Hunkies.”

Meat packing plants in Chicago might also be to blame for this terrible word. Black workers picked up the word from white workers and began using it against them. Damn honkies were taking all the jobs, apparently.

Another theory points to black people dubbing whiteys “honkies” because they were constantly honking their horns at hookers in the red-light district of Harlem.

Everything is always the fault of black people. Just watch your local news sometime.

“Honky” had more gusto in the 60’s and 70’s when it was adopted by black militant groups, but even then, many whites embraced the term as term of endearment.

Say it loud! I’m honky and proud!

What’s the point of all of this? There isn’t one, really…except to say that there really aren’t any offensive terms for white people. I realize that the million-honky march is just around the corner and John Boehner will be leading a procession of white men singing “We Shall Overcome” but until these poor folks get their reparations for tanning booth taxes and being targeted by the media and law enforcement for domestic terrorism, we will just have to sit back and wait for the time when they really do become a minority.

Maybe by then we’ll have a decent slur for them.

Santino J. Rivera is an Indie Publisher and Author at Broken Sword Publications – Follow him on Twitter @sjrivera.

{ 3 comments }

jona May 6, 2013 at 7:05 PM

I’ve been calling white people (parasites) for their need to lie, cheat and steal. I’m asian, and I find that it seem to hit home with y’all because, there’s truth behind it.

Bob September 1, 2013 at 10:20 PM

Wow, could you be any more narrow minded and shallow? The notion that somehow you can classify all white people based on your such limited experience is a reflection of your own lack of reasoning ability. Perhaps you lack any degree of education to make yourself a better judge of peoples character, but that does NOT forgive your sin of ugliness of thought.

Scott Morgan October 26, 2013 at 2:13 PM

As a Caucasian, if you feel the need to use a derogatory term for “white people” at any time, my suggestion is to call us “white trash”. I promise you’ll feel like you hit a home run when it comes time to use it.

Just be careful. As with any racial slur, they all come with consequences…

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