• Dixie •
Pronunciation: dik-see • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, proper
Meaning: (Slang) The US 'South', generally the region occupied by those southeastern US states that formed the Confederacy during the US Civil War (1861-1865).
Notes: The PC Police occasionally claim that today's perfectly Good Word is a racist term. In fact, the word is simply an informal expression without any racist overtones referring to a region of the US still distinguished dialectally and culturally. (See our Rebel-Yankee Test or Glossary of Quaint Southernisms for evidence.) The region today is no more racist than other regions of the US and so its slang moniker is perfectly OK. It has been incorporated into many other solidly US words, including Dixieland jazz and the name of the Dixiecrats in Congress back in the 40s and 50s.
In Play: The term Dixie was first published in a song, still popular, now simply called Dixie. The chorus of this song goes: "Then I wish I was in Dixie, hooray! hooray! In Dixie Land I'll take my stand to live and die in Dixie." The loss of the Civil War by the South led to a popular idiom based on the name of this song, "whistling Dixie", which means doing something futilely or simply pretending to do it: "Is the president really coming to Darlene's cookout Saturday or is she just whistling Dixie?"
Word History: The first published appearance of this word was in D. D. Emmett's song "Dixie's Land" back in 1859. It was popularized in that song and others like it in racist minstrel shows. Where Emmett picked up the word is unclear, but it may have stuck because it resembled Dixon in the phrase Mason-Dixon Line, the line most associated with dividing the northern from the southern US states. A far less likely story is that it originated with the French word dix "ten" on the back of a $10 bank note issued in New Orleans before the Civil War. As I explain in my blog, though, this story turns out to be the most likely and by far the most interesting. Click the word blog if you are interested. (Today's Good Word was suggested by Mariah Hanrahan of Buncombe County, NC, origin of the slang word bunk, which is what the claim that Dixie is a racist term amounts to.)