A term defined by Mississippian Curtis Wilkie in Dixie: A Personal Odyssey Through Events That Shaped The Modern South
as "a rural
, intolerant fool
." Rednecks may no longer always be actually rural, but they are generally of working-class
origin, and if you believe Michael Graham in Redneck Nation
, no longer limited to living in the U.S. South
. "Redneck" is one of those terms that can be used with a sort of pride by people who consider themselves or their ancestors to be rednecks (comedian Jeff Foxworthy
's "You might be a redneck if..." routines are an example) but are still an insult
if they come from someone outside the group.
Most people (including me, originally) assume the term to be derived from the uneven sunburn one gets from working on the farm with a short-sleeved, low- (or no-) collared shirt on -- red on the arms and neck, but nowhere else. Gentlemen didn't get sunburns like that. However, as ximinez noted below before I got around to updating this writeup, the term was first used in England to describe Presbyterians and other religious dissenters; Wilkie says that historian David H. Fischer found records of its use in that sense in North Carolina dating from 1830. As many of the Scottish and Scotch-Irish Presbyterians in Southern mountains and rural areas left that church to become Baptists and Methodists, the connotations of the term shifted to describe a class and culture rather than a religious affiliation.