From a report on a meeting of Little Rock School District parents — “As soon as the meeting started, I was corrected on some politically correct etiquette. I used the word ‘picnic’ to describe that we were going to have hamburgers and hotdogs in the hopes we could get as many people to come as possible to the meeting. However, I was told that was a very racially derogatory word to use. One of the members finally explained to me what the word apparently meant. I was told that it was used in times of slavery where a black slave was forced to get on all fours and have one of the master’s children to ride him like a horse. Another explanation was that it was a racial term for a lynching … ”
Several years ago, I was reading a local black-owned newspaper and saw a short item captioned “Black History,” or maybe “Did You Know?” Anyway, it said that the word picnic came from “pick a nigger” and referred to an old practice of white folks, on a jolly outing, selecting a black person to be hanged for the whites’ amusement. “Surely no one will believe this,” I thought. Surely, I thought wrong. The story is still going around, on the Internet — where it has circulated since at least 1999 — and occasionally, as here, in person.
The Word Detective is one of many authorities who refute the claim that picnic is racist. “ ‘Picnic’ first appeared in English in 1748, apparently borrowed directly from the French ‘piquenique,’ which combined ‘piquer’ (pick) with the obsolete French word ‘nique’ (trifle). The first picnics were what we would call pot-luck dinners. Only in the mid-19th century did ‘picnic’ come to mean a meal eaten outdoors. There is not, and never was, a secret racist history to ‘picnic.’ ”
Bare with him:
A South Carolina newspaper columnist writes — “Republican Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, is someone who bares watching in the 2008 run for the White House.”