From Academic Kids

In modern usage, redneck predominantly refers to a particular stereotype of whites from the Southern United States. The word can be used either as a pejorative or as a matter of pride, depending on context. See also Hillbilly


Modern usage

The redneck stereotype

The term redneck is seen by some people to be both racist and classist, as it is was originally used to describe a person of pale skin that has been sunburned doing outdoor work or field work, and disproportionately applies to the poor. Today, a redneck is a stereotypical southern United States socially conservative, fiscally liberal, rural, working class white person with northern European ancestry.

The popular etymology says that the term derives from such individuals having a red neck caused by working outdoors in the sunlight over the course of their lifetime. The effect of decades of direct sunlight on the exposed skin of the back of the neck not only reddens fair skin, but renders it leathery and tough, and typically very wrinkled by late middle age. Another popular theory stems from the use of red bandanas tied around the neck to signify union affiliation during the violent clashes between United Mine Workers and owners between 1910 and 1920.

Some historians claim that the term redneck originated in 17th century Virginia, when indentured servants were sunburnt while tending plantation crops.

A redneck is usually typified in popular culture by a straight male with a beer belly that consumes cheap American beer such as Busch or Miller by the case (Pabst Blue Ribbon in more traditional settings) as well as Jack Daniel's. They are generally distrustful or dislike anyone not like them or the government. The stereotypical redneck lives in a trailer, and drives an old, large, beat-up pickup truck with a gun rack in the rear window. He generally wears a stained, sleeveless t-shirt, blue jeans, and a trucker hat. Their hair is generally worn in the mullet style, and they favor long sideburns. Personal hygiene is a lost concept with the stereotypical redneck, and what teeth they have left generally show the complete anthology of the stages of dental caries. Their favorite activities include hunting, shooting at road signs and lights, professional wrestling, NASCAR, monster truck rallies, car engine repair, collecting junked cars and large appliances on their lawns, having way too many children and dogs, participating in domestic distubances, and waiting around for their welfare checks. Country and Southern Rock bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd figure in as their preferred genre of music.

Stereotypical redneck females have similar characteristics and interests on a feminine scale. They are most often seen barefoot, pregnant and wear Daisy Duke shorts with stiletto heels.

Popular culture

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy, himself a Southerner and a self-described redneck, has written several best-selling books about the stereotype, including Games Rednecks Play and the You Might Be a Redneck If... series. His works spawned many types of humorous redneck merchandise such as t-shirts and stickers that are quite popular among white southerners. Foxworthy did much to establish "redneck" as a term of pride and endearment by focusing on humorous and positive aspects of redneck culture.

King of the Hill is an American animated sit-com based on a more modern, somewhat softened and sympathetic version of redneck life.

Country music singer Gretchen Wilson titled one of her songs Redneck Woman on her 2004 album Here for the Party.

Author Jim Goad wrote a book titled The Redneck Manifesto that explores some of the socioeconomic history of this word and the people it is leveled at.

Historical usages


The word redneck is first cited in Scotland, where it referred to supporters of the National Covenant and The Solemn League and Covenant, otherwise known as Covenanters - largely lowland Presbyterians.

The Covenanters in the mid 1600's signed documents that stated Scotland desired the Presbyterian form of church government and would not accept the Church of England as its official state church. To signify their desire, many Covenanters signed the documents in their own blood, would spill their blood to keep this from happening and wore red pieces of cloth around their necks as distinctive insignia - hence the term Redneck.

These Scottish Presbyterians migrated from their lowland Scottish home to Ulster (the northern province of Ireland) during the 17th Century and soon settled in considerable numbers in North America across the 18th Century. One etymological theory holds that since many Scotch-Irish who settled in what would become the South were Presbyterian, the term was bestowed upon them and their descendants.

Related terms

South Africa

In South Africa, the Afrikaans term rooinek (meaning "redneck") was derisively applied by Afrikaners to the British soldiers who fought during the Boer Wars, because their skin was sensitive to the harsh African sun. The phrase is still used by Afrikaners to describe English-speaking white people.

Ironically, the term "redneck" is also used by the English to describe very conservative Afrikaners because of that group's historic support of apartheid, a system of white, minority power and privilege and black and "coloured" exploitation and disenfranchisement, possibly by analogy to the American usage described above.


"Poor whites" in Barbados (descendants largely of seventeenth century English, Scottish, and Irish indentured servants and deportees) were called Red Legs. Many of these families moved to Virginia and the Carolinas as large sugar plantations replaced small tobacco farming.

See also

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