Swamp Yankee

Swamp Yankee

Swamp Yankee is a colloquialism that has a variety of meanings. Generally, it refers to Yankees or WASPs (northeasterners with colonial ancestry) from rural Rhode Island and nearby eastern Connecticut and southeastern Massachusetts. The term "Yankee" connotes urbane industriousness, while the term "Swamp Yankee" signifies a more countrified, stubborn, independent and less refined subtype.


Ruth Schell's 1963 article, "Swamp Yankee" in "American Speech" goes into detail about the characteristics and usage associated with the term. She claims that it is used predominantly in Rhode Island, eastern Connecticut and occasionally southeastern Massachusetts, to describe: "a rural dweller--one of stubborn, old-fashioned, frugal, English-speaking Yankee stock, of good standing in the rural community, but usually possessing minimal formal education and little desire to augment it. Swamp Yankees themselves react to the term with slight disapproval or indifference...The term is unfavorably received when used by a city dweller with the intention of ridiculing a country resident; however, when one country resident refers to another as a swamp Yankee, no offense is taken, and it is treated as good-natured jest.". [ Ruth Schell, "Swamp Yankee," "American Speech", 1963, Volume 38, No.2 (The American Dialect Society, Published by Duke University Press ), pg. 121-123. accessed through JSTOR ]

Schell continues, " [t] he term is most frequently applied to older people and is often preceded by old. Sometimes it is shortened to swampy [or swamper] ... [Swamp yankees] were not among the religious and ambitious Pilgrims who had sailed to America on the Mayflower; but rather they were more often among the undesirables who had left England as the result of some form of misconduct and who retreated to the swamps when they arrived here." The typical swamp Yankee can be found in an old, rural general store...where in the evening four or five of the immediate countryside's swamp Yankees gather and tell stories for several hours. Such a gathering has been jocularly described as a "lying contest...The term swamp Yankee is becoming less known and may be unknown in a few generations....Probably the best reason for its disappearance is the vanishing of the swamp Yankee himself as society moves toward urban and suburban life." [ Schell, 121-123 ]

At one time Swamp Yankees even had their own variety of isolated country music, according to an article written by Harvard professor, Paul Di Maggio, and Vanderbilt University professor, Richard Peterson. [ Peterson, 499]

Today, the term is still used in Rhode Island, eastern Connecticut and southeastern Massachusetts and often connotes the northern equivalent of the southern term redneck. In 1993, the playwright, Arthur Miller used the term in his play, "The Last Yankee", to refer to a New England carpenter who was a descendant of one of the Founding Fathers. Rhode Island cartoonist Don Bosquet often parodies the "Swamp Yankee" in his cartoons. In a 2003 article in New England Quarterly about President Calvin Coolidge, Kerry W. Buckley describes Coolidge as a "swamp Yankee," defined as "scion of an old family that was no longer elite or monied." [Kerry W. Buckley, "A President for the "Great Silent Majority: Bruce Barton's Construction of Calvin Coolidge," "The New England Quarterly" > Vol. 76, No. 4 (Dec., 2003), pp. 594]


The origins of the term "Swamp Yankee" are unclear. The term "Yankee" originated in the mid-18th century, and the variation "Swamp Yankee" seems to have developed shortly after this period. Several theories speculate that Swamp Yankees were the undesirable, troublemaking New Englanders who moved to the "swamps" of southeastern New England upon arriving in the New World in the 17th century.

One possible reason for this term may have been that many ancestors of Swamp Yankees came to America as indentured servants. In 17th and 18th century England, it was common practice for a person to agree to a finite period of indentured servitude (often seven years), in order to either learn a profession (an apprentice), or in exchange for some material gain (a bondservant). Frequently, members of the poorer population, in order to emigrate to the American Colonies, and eventually own their own land, agreed to become indentured servants to more affluent New England land-owners (now known as "Old Yankees"), in exchange for ship passage, room and board for the period of servitude, and a parcel of land (usually forty acres)at the end of the period. Upon completion of servitude, the debt was frugally paid by the awarding of lower-value, or swamp land. Thus, many "Swamp" Yankee families have been settled in New England for just as long as, if not longer than, "Old" Yankees, but were never afforded the socio-economic advantages of their upper-crust former masters. Nonetheless, under the British law at the time, only land-owners could vote, and the Swamp Yankees, who were formerly the disenfranchised working poor of England and later, New England, now enjoyed the benefits of full citizenship.

Another theory claims that the term originated during the American Revolution when residents of Thompson, Connecticut fled to the surrounding swamps to escape a feared British invasion in 1776. When the refugees arose from the swamps several weeks later, they were ridiculed and called "Swamp Yankees." [http://www.curbstone.org/index.cfm?webpage=80] In 1935 the "New York Times" labeled "Swamp Yankees" as those driven out of a New England mill town by immigrants. [ "New York Times," "Out of the Whirlwind," The May 26, 1935 ]

Examples of use

* [http://www.yankeemagazine.com/travel/search/onelisting.php?number=24268 Swamp Yankee Days Festival in Ashaway, Rhode Island]
* [http://www.swamp-yankees.org/ Swamp Yankee - A Swing/Latin Music album]
* [ Rhode Island Swamp Yankee Striped Bass Classic]
* [http://www.margaretlcarter.com/fooddead.php Description of a Rhode Island Swamp Yankee by novelist Margaret L. Carter]
* [http://www.nesales.com/swampyankee.htm List of Swamp Yankee characteristics]
* [http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewAlbum?i=288590017&id=288589979&s=143441 Swamp Yankee: The Song by] Foxtrot Zulu



*Ruth Schell, "Swamp Yankee," "American Speech", 1963, Volume 38, No.2 (The American Dialect Society, Published by Duke University Press ), pg. 121-123. accessed through JSTOR
* [http://www.projo.com/ri/charlestown/content/SC_SWAMPCOL_02-29-08_UH95CTL_v43.1d42eee.html Alan Rosenberg "Is Swamp Yankee an insult or a badge of honor," "Providence Journal" Charlestown, February 29, 2008]
* [http://www.curbstone.org/index.cfm?webpage=80 "Excerpt from Legendary Connecticut" by David Philips]
*Hans Kurath, "Linguistic Atlas of New England, II" (Providence, R.I.), map 450.
*Captain Harry Allen Chippendale, "Sails and Whales" (Boston, 1951), pp 105-6.
*Philip Jerome Cleveland, "It's Bright in My Valley" (Westwood, N.J., 1962), p. 30.
*"Sayings of the Oracle," "Yankee" (August, 1962), p.12.
*Joseph Bensman; Arthur J. VIdich, "The New Middle Classes: Their Culture and Life Styles," "Journal of Aesthetic Education", Vol.4, No. 1, (Jan., 1970), pp. 23-39.
*Richard A. Peterson; Paul Di Maggio, "From Region to Class, the Changing Locus of Country Music: A Test of the Massification Hypothesis," "Social Forces" (University of North Carolina Press, 1975), 499.

ee also


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужна курсовая?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • swamp — 1624 (first used by Capt. John Smith, in reference to Virginia), perhaps a dialectal survival from an O.E. cognate of O.N. svoppr sponge, fungus, from P.Gmc. *swampuz; but traditionally connected with M.E. sompe morass, swamp, probably from M.Du …   Etymology dictionary

  • Yankee — This article is about the term. For other uses, see Yankee (disambiguation). The term Yankee (sometimes shortened to Yank) has several interrelated and often pejorative meanings, usually referring to people originating in the northeastern United… …   Wikipedia

  • Yankee (disambiguation) — A Yankee is someone of United States origin or heritage.* A soldier identified as a Patriot during the American Revolutionary War * A Union soldier during the American Civil War * Swamp Yankee, a rural resident of Rhode Island or Connecticut with …   Wikipedia

  • The Last Yankee — is a play by Arthur Miller. The play takes place in a present day state mental hospital, located somewhere in New England. Patricia Hamilton is recovering from depression, and this may be the day she feels strong enough to go home. But a visit… …   Wikipedia

  • Connecticut Yankee Council — Owner …   Wikipedia

  • New England — This article is about the region of the United States. For other uses, see New England (disambiguation). New England …   Wikipedia

  • Coonass — A coonass bumper sticker. Coonass, or Coon ass, is used in reference to a person of Cajun ethnicity. Many consider it an insult but others consider it a compliment or badge of honor. Although many Cajuns use the word in regard to themselves,… …   Wikipedia

  • Albert Cummings — (born in 1968) is a blues guitarist from Williamstown, Massachusetts. He is also a fourth generation builder. Albert Cummings started playing the five string banjo at twelve but later switched to guitar. In his late twenties he formed a band,… …   Wikipedia

  • List of regional nicknames — The list of regional nicknames includes nicknames for people based on their locality of origin (birthplace, place of permanent residence, or family roots). Nicknames based on the country (or larger geopolitical area) of origin may be found in the …   Wikipedia

  • List of ethnic slurs by ethnicity — This list of ethnic slurs by ethnicity compiles ethnic slurs that are, or have been, used in the English language. For the purposes of this list, ethnicity can be defined by either race, nationality or ethnicity. Contents 1 Broader ethnic… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”