Monday, June 23, 2008

Proud To Be A Ypsituckian

For those Kentuckians who were called "racists" for voting against Senator Barack Obama, there is another slur to add to the shoulder. Certain Michigan residents have coined the label "Ypsitucky" to refer to transplanted Kentuckians. According to epicurious.com:

[C]alling someone Ypsitucky is essentially the same as calling them poor white trash, as it's a long-standing local term that pokes fun at Appalachian immigrants (it combines "Kentucky" with once-blue-collar "Ypsilanti, Mich.").

"If you want to talk about a dinner about people who moved up here from the South and what kind of food they eat, (the term) is fine," Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber told the Ann Arbor News. "But the just plain term 'Ypsitucky' is a pejorative term."

"It was a poke at the people from Kentucky that moved up here," Ypsilanti City Councilwoman Lois Richardson said. "It's really a derogatory term. It's not one that I would use."

I had never heard of Ypsitucky before, but I'm glad the speech police have alerted me so I can be deeply offended. I still think "Kentuckiana" is the worst bastardization of geographic names.

1 comment:

Mike Blanton said...

I am an Ypsituckian.

My parents left the hollows of Eastern Kentucky in the 60's to find work "up north." My Dad got a job as an auto worker; my Mom as a bookkeeper in a department store. They purchased a little house on the east side of Ypsilanti (Township) and started a family.

I grew up well cared for, well loved, and I'm quite sure I had the same opportunities as many other children. As far as I'm concerned, my childhood was actually rather idyllic. Our Appalachian heritage seemed neither an advantage or disadvantage. Ypsilanti is where we lived. Kentucky is where we were from. That's how we thought of it - not that it was consequential. Everyone is from somewhere.

We were a normal family. We played. We camped. We went fishing. We fixed-up our cars. We went sledding and rode snowmobiles in the winter. We cooked-out with neighbors in the summer. We enjoyed life just as any other family did in Ypsilanti. If we were members of some sub-class of Ypsilantians, it certainly wasn't obvious to me. I hate to point this out, but the generally homogeneous neighborhoods of Ypsilanti aren't like the boroughs of New York. Living at the crossroads of Grove & Harris makes you no more or less distinguished than living at Packard & Golfside.

As such, the idea that the term Ypsituckian is synonymous with poor white trash is laughable. It's just a term to describe a group of people who came up US23 (to find better jobs) and settled in a town with a quirky name. With all due respect to Councilwoman Richardson, the term Ypsitucky does not disparage any culture or group. For that to be the case, we must assume Ypsilanti is somehow superior to the entire state of Kentucky - another entirely laughable idea.

Personally, I don't find the term Ypsitucky to be derogatory at all. In fact, among the few people who might actually understand its etymology, when used today the term is generally done so endearingly. I seriously doubt the real Ypsituckians object to the term. It's more likely that the liberal elite stuck their noses into the matter so they could make the press.

Michael Blanton