James A. Lewis


Over the years the regional diversity of the United States has coined scores of colorful words to describe groups of people perceived to have something in common. On occasion, these words, often pejorative in connotation, have worked their way into other languages, a classic example being the term Yankee. One of the more expressive regional terms to find its way into a foreign language has been the word cracker, defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as a “contemptuous name in [the] Southern States of N. America [applied] to the ‘poor whites’: Whence familiarly, to the native whites of Georgia and Florida.“ Indeed, few modern expressions relating to the white population of the American South have had a more disparaging meaning. For a number of historical reasons, this word found a brief life in the Spanish language. To understand why cracker was incorporated into Spanish, it is important to know the etymological development of the word.