January 18th, 2017 in Words
The noun Yankee or Yank is used to refer to a US citizen. While it is sometimes used disparagingly, most US citizens do not hesitate to call themselves Yankees.
- Mark boasted that he would knock the daylights out of the next Yankee he met.
Yankee could have come from Janke or Jan Kees. Jan is the Dutch form of the English name John. So, Jan Kees is essentially John Cheese. Both Janke and Jan Kees were derisive nicknames that Englishmen gave to the cheese-making and cheese-selling Hollanders in the 17th century. They were bitter rivals at that time and fought many wars for gaining supremacy over India. Later during the French and Indian war, the British soldiers used the word as a contemptuous term from New Englanders fighting on their side. This is how the expression started applying to Americans. New England is in the United States. After the Battle of Lexington, the rebellious colonists cheerfully adopted the nickname Yankee. They reveled in the appellation Yankee. During the War Between the States, Southerners (those living in the southern parts of the US) nicknamed their northern enemies as Yankees or Damn Yankees. Thus the word again became a derisive epithet. In many southern parts of the US, the word Yankee is still a derisive expression. However, outside of the US, it has become a synonym for ‘US citizen’.