Y is for Yank

I have been a bit confused by the term Yank or Yankee in that it seemed to have related, but inconsistent, meanings. From the Wikipedia: “Within the US it can refer to people originating in the northeastern US, or still more narrowly New England, where application of the term is largely further restricted to the descendants of colonial English settlers in the region.” The British, before and during the American Revolution, referred to Americans in general as Yankees. And the Americans embraced it, as the song “Yankee Doodle” will attest.

But Southerners, especially around the time of the American Civil War and after, called the Northerners in general Yankees.

In the the World War I song, ‘Over There,’ one will find a reference to “The Yanks are coming,” meaning all of the US soldiers. And almost every World War II movie with Allied troops will find a British or Aussie officer referring to “You Yanks,” again including Southerners, some of whom may have balked at the term.

To that end, there was a magazine called Yank, the Army Weekly, which was produced from June 1942 to December 1945 in 21 editions for 17 countries. Appropriately, another definition of the word yank is “to pull with a quick, strong movement; jerk: yanked the emergency cord.”

A slang definition of yank is “to extract or remove abruptly: yanked the starting pitcher early in the game.” And speaking of which, the New York Yankees baseball team is probably the group of Yanks many are familiar with.

Nope, I’m no more clear on the application, or for that matter, derivation of the term.

ABC Wednesday – Round 12


25 thoughts on “Y is for Yank”

  1. The wikipedia entry makes clear that the origin of the word “Yankee” is a derogatory term for American Colonists made up by the British. The song Yankee Doodle, which sounds like nonsense to us moderns, was a mockery of how poorly the Americans dressed. Thus when the British surrendered at Yorktown, Washington ordered the fifers to play Yankee Doodle, saying in effect, “We may be badly dressed but we beat you.”


  2. Ah, those terms. Same as we Brits – to Australians we were ‘Poms’, and to Americans, ‘Limeys.’ Within my own country, being a Yorkshireman, I’m usually a ‘Yorkie’ or ‘Tyke.’ Such insults from those in other parts of the UK, like Brummies, Geordies, Scousers, etc … 🙂


  3. I’m like you – still confused as to how the Brits came up with the term. If Wikipedia is correct, I just might be a “Yankee” myself. We have finally discovered that our ancestors, rather than coming over on the Mayflower, actually OWNED it…quite a surprise to us! 😀

    abcw team


  4. Yankee is one of those terms that probably always mean something to one person and something else to another. I, for one, don’t mind being called a Yankee, but being from Indiana, I do NOT root for the YANKEES!


  5. Yes, we were waiting for the Yankees to us from the concentration camps. In the end it was the Tommies that liberated us! For us it didn ‘t matter as long as we were free!
    Have a great week!
    Wil, ABCW Team


  6. The magazine link is very browsable. Seems like the use of the word depends whether you are an insider or outsider in country terms. Then there is the complicated ‘Yankee bet’ in horse-racing, I wonder why it is called that.


  7. So interesting, I remember seeing an old 90s movie called “Metropolitan,” set in Barcelona. There was a scene with graffiti in the background containing the word “Yanqui” (if memory serves) – I gathered it was none-too-affectionate a bit of graffiti!


  8. If the Americans among us, are confused, I should be even more so! From the comments I gather that in the past to be called a yank was not a compliment. What about now though? All I know is that I like the 4th of July song “Yankee Doodle went to town…”:)


  9. Great post. I was at one point thinking about doing Yankee but the humidity sapped whatever mental energy I had and just couldn’t face the research. Thankfully the temp. has dropped considerably but the humidity is still higher than I would care for


  10. Quite often, terms which were originally considered derogatory can become softened into a kind of endearment. Very interesting post, and a great photo, too.


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