Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Define "Redneck."

Ok, i guess this is more etymological than philosophical, but what does it really mean to be a "redneck"?

My husband and I have a small problem in that we have a tendency to refer to ourselves (and him in particular) as rednecks. We're from the south, and we've recently moved to the northern midwest. When people hear me call him a redneck, some of them initially think i'm insulting him. They're then surprised to hear him agree with me.

The problem is that when we call each other rednecks, we're referring to the fact that we like tractors and even own one, even though we've never been farmers (nor have our parents). Right now it's just in storage, and we live in a suburb. Normal people don't own tractors unless they have a reason why they need them. But i guess we're just rednecks.

We're also referring to the fact that we do all our own automotive work. Our cars are older and occasionally something breaks and needs to be fixed. But instead of taking it to the shop my husband fixes it himself and sometimes i'll help. Rplacing certain parts on one of the cars is becoming routine maintenance. Normal people buy nice cars, take them to the shop for repairs and maintenance, and when they get older they sell them. But i guess we're just rednecks.

We also don't drive normal cars. we own two jeeps and a pickup. We keep mud or all-terrain tires on the jeeps and we even lifted one of them. We keep wanting to do some real off roading but mostly we just enjoy being able to drive in the snow without much trouble. Normal people drive nice cars and keep them clean and put normal tires on them. But i guess we're just rednecks.

We wear Carharrt coats instead of pretty ones (although that may change one of these days - i'm starting to wish i had something that wasn't so stiff). we'd rather live in a yurt in a field than in a normal house in a normal neighborhood. We'd rather go camping than stay in a nice resort. We go hunting (ok that's not too weird but you can see how it fits in with everything else).

The only problem is that when you say "redneck" around here, most people think we're talking about being uneducated, uncouth, and prejudiced, in addition to driving tractors and going off-roading.

So the question is - what does it really mean? Are we using the term incorrectly, is it just a regional thing, or are the northerners confused about us southerners? I just wish there was a good way to describe me and my husband without implying all sorts of negative things that are not true about us.


Andi said...

A couple years ago, I referred to myself as a redneck simply because I like NASCAR. It was brought to my attention by a friend of a friend that the term means to be a racist. I had not heard that before. Now, I just avoid the term. Of course, the song "Redneck Woman" by Gretchen Wilson has no connotation of racism at all.
I guess it just depends on who you ask.

Ruth said...

I have never heard the term redneck used in connection with racism. In fact I had had an African American (in southern WI)friend who would refer to himself as a redneck upon occaision. I think like many terms this is one that tends to have several definations based on the locality, but in general it has a negative connotation for non-rednecks.

Joy said...

i'm glad i'm not the only one who's noticed the ambiguity. maybe one day all the rednecks will unite and set the story straight about who we really are :)

Anonymous said...

Rednecks come in many levels. There are the in-bred, racist, pistol toten, beer drinking, rebel flag waving, kind and there are the mild, soft spoken, salt of the earth, good old boy, don't know no better kind and varing degrees in between. All in all redneck is not a positive term. I have lived in the south all of my life. What was once in the south, an endearing term of familiarity, has now become, thanks to Jeff Foxworthy, a crude insult.