Where does "Cohee" come from?
September 13, 2005 11:42 AM   Subscribe

What is the etymology behind the word "Cohee"?

In Richard B. Drake's essay Slavery And Antislavery In Appalachia, the term "Cohee" is used extensively to describe "Appalachian backwoodsmen." Where does this term come from?

The term seems to be used in conjuction with Yankee and Tuckahoe to describe people from different regions of the country. I know the definition, but I really want to know and understand the origins and etymology behind the term.

My Appalachian Studies professor did not know where the term came from. The Google Print article that I referenced and linked to may not have the entirety of the article, but you can get the gist of what Drake is speaking about from what is available. The book from which the essay comes is also available on Amazon.
posted by Third to Writing & Language (2 answers total)
Well, this page says that the term "might have been derived from the fact that the Valley people commonly used the terms, 'Quoth he,' 'Quo her' or 'said he' and the saying was slurred into the word 'Cohee.'"
posted by cerebus19 at 11:58 AM on September 13, 2005

In his book A History of Appalachia, Drake describes the word as a self-referential term used by "backwoodsmen" (my ancestors!) who settled the western part of Virginia (now West Virginia) to differentiate themselves from the elite "Tuckahoes" who ruled in the eastern half of the state. "Tuckahoe" was the name of a plantation owned by the Randolfs. The term Cohee was later used by anthropologists to describe the yeoman culture of these people. See page 68 of Drake's book, which has an entire chapter entitled "Backwoods-Cohee Society."

While Drake's use of the term in an anthropological sense is correct, I suspect his etymology might be incomplete.
posted by arco at 12:04 PM on September 13, 2005

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