Is the origin of the phrase "Okie Dokie Smokie" Racist?

This is the full read-only archive of the "Ask the Wordwizard" section of the original Wordwizard site. The responses to the questions originate from Jonathon Green, the compiler of the Cassell Dictionary of Slang and numerous other dictionaries.
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Is the origin of the phrase "Okie Dokie Smokie" Racist?

Post by Archived Topic » Mon Nov 03, 1997 12:00 am

I was at a drive through the other day and placed my order. When the person told me how much the meal was, I answered "okie dokie smokie"! When I drove to the window, the gentleman was african american and looked angry at me. I suddenly realized that I do not know whether or not the phrase I have been using throughout my life has racist roots! I certainly did not intend this, but now I question the source. I am now searching for the origin and hope you can shed some light on this.





Any Ideas??





- Sean
Submitted by Sean Lee (Leominster - U.S.A.)
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Is the origin of the phrase "Okie Dokie Smokie" Racist?

Post by Jonathon Green » Wed Nov 05, 1997 8:00 am

I quote from my own Words Apart: The Language of Prejudice (1996). It may cast a little light:





Aside from terms that link the word black with the Black person, there are a number of cognates that play on dirt, darkness, smoke and similar concepts. Thus ‘midnight’ refers to a particularly dark Black person, and ‘smoke’, ‘smokey’, ‘smokey-joe’ and ‘smokestack’ have all been popular since the 1920s. The Bono people of Ghana, admirers of light skin tones, revile the very black as ‘wo ho tuntum se tren wisie’: ‘your skin is as black as train-smoke’. Harlem slang of the 1940s used ‘smit’ (presumably from ‘smart’) ‘smoke’ to mean a highly intelligent Black person. ‘Moke’ (mid-19th century) may well be an abbreviation of smoke, although it might relate to ‘mocha’, itself meaning Black, although the colour is usually defined as dark brown. ‘Mochalie’ is a Chinese person. The female version is ‘femmoke’. ‘Smudge’, ‘speck’, ‘sooty’, ‘smutt-butt’ and ‘smidget’ all carry an implication of dirt and grubbiness, as perhaps does ‘snuff,’ with its implication of sneezing the brown powder into an unwashed handkerchief. ‘Dinge’, favoured by Raymond Chandler, is a straight lift from‘ ‘dingy’: ‘a (disagreeably) dark and dull colour or appearance;... usually implying a dirty colour or aspect due to smoke, grime, dust, weathering...’; ‘dink’, more usually associated with Orientals, is also found for Blacks and may be a version of dinge. Properly found as a description of a half-caste is the 18th- century‘ dingey Christian’: a mulatto or anyone with a degree of mixed blood and whom the slang lexicographer Francis Grose terms ‘anyone who has, as the West Indian term is, a lick of the tar-brush’. ‘Boogie’ (or ‘bo, bu’ and ‘boo-boo’), which means Black, has been used since the 1920s (giving ‘boogie-box’ as a synonym for the outsize radio-cum-tape-decks otherwise known as ‘ghetto-blasters’ or ‘wog-boxes’); the abbreviation ‘boog’ and the extension ‘booger’ (more commonly found in Afro-American use meaning something unpleasant and as ‘booger bear’ someone notably ugly) is sometimes found. ‘Shit-skin’, as found in modern Scotland, is depressingly self-explanatory. Today’s ‘person of color’ is one of the acceptable terms for Black and brown Americans, but ‘colored’ or ‘the coloured’, often spelt ‘cullud’ and appearing in such deliberately ‘black’ pronunciations as ‘cullud-gemman’ (coloured gentleman) or ‘cullud-gal ’(coloured girl), was used as a euphemism in America from early in the 19th century. More recently that same ‘gal’ has been known as a ‘raven beauty’ (a pun on raving beauty and raven black) or an ‘Indian princess’; a‘ Zulu princess’ is a gay term, meaning a young, handsome Black man. Another girl’s name is ‘seal,’ reflecting on the smoothness of sealskin, while ‘suede,’ reflective more of colour than texture, will serve for any Black person.
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