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US: Regional stereotypes



From Virginia, Philip Terzian writes: "Cameron Sawyer may be correct about the paucity of American jokes where Americans in general are the butt of humor. But specific types of Americans are widely distributed in jokedom: Boastful New Yorkers, dumb Southerners, surfing Californians, farmers' daughters, Philadelphia lawyers, residents of New Jersey (especially the northern half), clubwomen, Irish cops, black maids, Texas ranchers, Polish-American football players, Maine fishermen, etc. etc. Here in Virginia we can't get enough of illustrations about the backwardness of West Virginians".

RH: This brings up my question: how do the butts feel about the jokes? When I came to this country, a favorite radio was "Amos and Andy", in which two white comedians posed as blacks. We though it was very funny, but the Blacks did not. How do West Virginians feel about being viewed as impoverished hillbillies? The state split off from Virginia in 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, on account of sectionalism. The population was divided between Confederates and Unionists. That may have left some bitterness. There is no well-known university, but Charleston, the capital, is making a valiant effort to establish as a cultural center. Robert Byrd (a good Virginian name, although he is from North Carolina!) has been Senator for West Virginia since 1959. He always carries a copy of the constitution, and claims to be the authority on it in Congress. Is that an expression of devotion to the Union? Philip speaks of "dumb Southerners" (we could add rednecks), They are the ones still resentful over the defeat of the South. Not Robert Byrd.

Ronald Hilton - 11/16/02


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