The epithet cracker has been applied in a derogatory way, like redneck, to rural, non-elite white southerners,
The true history of the name, however, is more involved and shows a shift in application over time. Linguists now believe the original root to be the Gaelic craic, still used in Ireland (anglicized in spelling to crack) for "entertaining conversation." The English meaning of cracker as a braggart appears by Elizabethan times, as, for example, in Shakespeare's King John (1595): "What cracker is this . . . that deafes our ears / With this abundance of superfluous breath?"
By the 1760s the English, both at home and in colonial America, were applying the term to Scots-Irish settlers of the southern backcountry,
Kay L. Cothran, "Talking Trash in the Okefenokee Swamp Rim, Georgia," in Readings in American Folklore, ed. Jan H. Brunvand (New York: Norton, 1979).
Grady McWhiney, Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1988).
John Solomon Otto, "Cracker: The History of a Southeastern Ethnic, Economic, and Racial Epithet," Names 35 (1987): 28-39.
Delma E. Presley, "The Crackers of Georgia," Georgia Historical Quarterly 60 (summer 1976): 102-16.
John A. Burrison, Georgia State University
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