THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME "YANKEE"

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cover new england

This is an extract of my article, with small photos. You will find the complete article with full-sized photos in my e-book View America: New England

In the travel series View America, this book describes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, points of interest and tourist attractions.

It is not a traditional travel story, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 100 full-sized photos.

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There are a quite few stories about the exact origin of the name "Yankee". It is the nickname that Americans themselves awarded to the people of Connecticut, and later to all of New England. In the rest of the world that name came to apply to all Americans.

The nicest explanation of its origin comes from the Dutch, as early as 1650. They will tell you that the first name "John" was extremely common with the first English settlers of Connecticut. Now in Dutch, this name translates as "Jan", and its diminutive is "Janneke" or little John. In Dutch dialect, this is pronounced as "Janke".

Another theory, far less friendly, states that Yankee comes from the Cherokee word "eankke", which means "cowardly".

Still another plausible explanation comes from the Scottish dictionary. The Scots where often overwhelmed by the glib traders from New England, and so they may have used the Gallic word "yankie", which means cunning woman...

However it may be, even earlier than 1775, the British mockingly described every American colonist as a "Yankee". During the American Revolution the Americans proudly adopted this nickname as their own, and the famous "Yankee Doodle" became a patriotic song.

During the Civil War (1861 - 1865), the south always referred to the north as Yankees. After World War I (1914-1918), this name was spread over Europe and the rest of the world by Parisian newspapers.

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