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Gringo



Ed Simmen of the University of the Americas in Puebla. Mexico, asks if it is true that the word "gringo" is used in northern Spain to describe a Frenchman. The word is normally associated with Mexico, meaning Anglo American. It is commonly said that the Mexicans applied the word to Americans because the Americans invading Mexico in 1846 sang "Green grow the rushes, oh", and indeed the first reference given in the Oxford English Dictionary is from Audobon, 1849. However, that is not the origin of the word, which is much older. Strangely, the massive four-volume etymological dictionary of Corominas does not list the word, possibly because he regarded it as slang. The 1925 edition of the Dictionary of the Spanish Academy describes it as "familiar, scornful," referring to all people who do not speak Spanish, coming from "griego", an unintelligible language as in "thatīs Greek to me". Webster supports that view. In Andalusia it would refer to the English, in northern Spain to the French. Larousse says that in Argentina it means English. The Enciclopedia Universal Herder, published in Barcelona, says it comes from the English "greenhorn": naive, and a recently arrived immigrant. I have never heard " greenhorn" used in that sense, but in fact I have never heard the word. I think "greenhorn" is obsolete. Herder does not say how it got this etymology.

My answer to you, Ed?: It is.

Ronald Hilton - 4/28/01


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