He raised his Bud and took a good swig, putting the bottle down on the table he put both hands behind his head, then leaning back into his chair Steve said, “Great seeing you again, Tom. What’s it like down there with those ‘rednecks.’” I raised my Bud to him, took a short swig and replied,”Huh, what rednecks?” Steve, leaning forward and reaching out for his Bud replied, “You know what I mean, those southern ‘Hillbillies’” Sitting back, and following another slightly longer swig of Bud, I shared this thought, “Haven’t met any Rednecks and talked with only a few Hillbillies.”
There are many “slang” expressions for us Americans based on family origin, settlement location, and both education and genetic traits - such as the slant of the eye or the color of one’s skin. Who we are now simply doesn’t reflect history with accuracy - yet another example of truth ignored - will we ever listen to history? So what does it mean to be a “redneck?” What is the origin of that descriptive “name?” And just who are “Hillbillies?”
For sure it has nothing to do with the color of one’s neck - it doesn’t mean one is a farmer, and has nothing to do with levels of education or literacy. In fact, the name “redneck” originally had little do with being a “Southerner.” The term “redneck” goes back to the seventeenth century in Scotland. A group called the Covenanters rejected rule by bishops, often signing manifestos using their own blood. Many Covenanters wore red cloth around their neck to signify their position, and were called “rednecks” by the Scottish ruling class.
The Covenanters were the “rebels” in what came to be known as The Bishop’s War. Eventually, the term began to mean simply “Presbyterian”, especially in communities along the Scottish border. Because of the large number of Scottish immigrants in the pre-revolutionary American South, many historians have suggested that this may be the origin of the term in the United States.
Now we all know “Hillbillies” right? Well not if we think of them as Southerners or just plain old “Mountain Folk.” The term is thought to originate from the Ulster-Scottish settlers who settled in mountain areas in America. The term comes from the folk music that they played. Often the songs were about the protestant King William III (Prince of Orange), shortened to Billy and consequently came the term Hill Billy. Supporters of King William were often called the Orange Men or Billy Boys. There is speculation that the name may have come from William Wallace, a Scottish national hero.
Yes, indeed, I’ve met people with red necks, met many named Billy, and for sure have conversed with those from the mountains - love their music. “Hey, I got the ‘willies.’” But maybe that’s because I’m wearing a wool shirt - or is it?