Speaking of the Hungarian(-American) ‘working class’ in the Chicago environs. According to the entry on Wikipedia: Honky, Honkey or Honkie is an American racial slur for a Caucasian, usually applied to males.

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The word ‘honky’ as a pejorative for Caucasians comes from ‘bohunk’ and ‘hunky’. In the early 1900’s, these were derogatory terms for Bohemian, Hungarian, and Polish immigrants. According to Robert Hendrickson, author of the Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, Black workers in Chicago meat-packing plants picked up the term from white workers and began applying it indiscriminately to all Caucasians.

Honky was later adopted as a pejorative meaning white in 1967 by black militants within SNCC seeking a rebuttal for the term nigger. They settled on a familiar word they felt was disparaging to certain Americans of European descent; hunkie meaning an American of Slavic or Hungarian descent.

In the Simpsons cartoon series, Homer Simpson is fond of saying when something goes wrong, particularly at the nuclear power plant where he works, “blame it on Tibor, the guy who doesn’t speak English.”

One can imagine that this is something of an inside joke among the creators of the Simpsons, since the chief cartoonist Gabor Csupo is Hungarian (supposedly Hank Azaria’s character Dr. Nick Riviera, a quack physician, is supposed to be a parody of Ricky Ricardo on I Love Lucy – “Hi e-ver-y-bo-dy!” – but coworkers just assumed he was making fun of Gabor. Personally, I have always thought he sounds oddly like Andrei Codrescu on NPR) .

According to the online urban dictionary of slang, “blame it on… Tibor” has entered at least some marginal popular discourse as shorthand for blaming the foreigner – thus in keeping perhaps, unintentionally, with the roots of ‘Honky’: A tibor is someone in your office whom you blame when you have done something stupid, illegal, or immoral. Typically the person is someone who cannot defend himself or herself. Especially effective when the Tibor cannot speak English. “You’ll have to jiggle the handle. That idiot, Tibor, lost the key.”

Richard Andrew Hall holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Indiana University, where he focused his studies on east central Europe. He is the author of articles on Romania, Hungary, nationalism, and east central Europe in general, in academic journals and more recently on the Internet.

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