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Honyoks and Hunyokkers

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Kyle in Fort Monroe, Virginia, says his family jokingly uses the term honyock to refer to “someone who acts in a silly way,” and often applies this word to politicians and bad drivers. Variously spelled, hunkyak, hunyakker, or hunyokker, the word originated with the wave of Hungarian immigrants to the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This term for one of those immigrants is likely a combination of Hun, a term for “a German person,” and the suffix -ack as in Polack for “a Polish person.” It originally applied to rowdy, boisterous characters, but over time, underwent what linguists call semantic bleaching, as the term’s original negative sense faded. Variations of this term include bohunk, hunky and hunk. It also gave rise to the term honky, meaning “a white person.” The nicknames Hunky Town and Hunky Row were once applied to neighborhoods with a high concentration of immigrants from Eastern Europe. This is part of a complete episode.

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