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    #1

    cotton picking

    Dear teachers,

    Would you be kind enough to tell me whether I am right with my interpretation of the expression in bold in the following sentences?

    Keep your cotton picking hands off my flowers!
    You've got to clean up your room, son, this is a cotton-picking mess!
    cotton picking = worthless, crude, common, messy

    When May and Mary went screaming and running crazily down the street, dad muttered, "You two are out of your cotton-picking minds.
    be out one’s cotton picking mind = to say someone is crazy, a fool

    Thank you for your efforts.

    Regards,

    V.

  1. mayita1usa's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: cotton picking

    Quote Originally Posted by vil View Post
    Would you be kind enough to tell me whether I am right with my interpretation of the expression in bold in the following sentences?

    Keep your cotton picking hands off my flowers!
    You've got to clean up your room, son, this is a cotton-picking mess!
    cotton picking = worthless, crude, common, messy

    When May and Mary went screaming and running crazily down the street, dad muttered, "You two are out of your cotton-picking minds.
    be out one’s cotton picking mind = to say someone is crazy, a fool
    No, your interpretations aren't exactly correct.
    The expression cotton-pickin' is an intensifier, and it's used in place of an inappropriate swear word (such as f*****g or G**d***). It probably originated in the south of the USA, where lots of cotton was/is grown, and where English is often used very creatively.

    Does that help?

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    #3

    Re: cotton picking

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****

    Good morning, Vil.

    You have received some excellent replies to your question.

    I just wanted to add a cultural tip:

    If you visit the United States, it would be very helpful NOT to

    use this phrase in speech (or even in writing). There are some

    people who would be very offended and might become very angry

    with you.

    Have a nice day!

  2. EhabIsaac's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: cotton picking

    useful, thanks.

  3. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: cotton picking

    Parser, where do you think people would be upset by this? I've heard it all my life in the northeast and if anything, it's a mildly amusing alternative to far courser language. I can picture Yosemite Sam on the Bugs Bunny cartoons saying that.

    Is it racist in the South?
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #6

    Re: cotton picking

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    Parser, where do you think people would be upset by this? I've heard it all my life in the northeast and if anything, it's a mildly amusing alternative to far courser language. I can picture Yosemite Sam on the Bugs Bunny cartoons saying that.

    Is it racist in the South?
    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****

    Good morning, Barbara.

    (1) Your last sentence touched on something that I did not dare

    raise. (I carefully obey the website's guidelines.)

    (2) Since you mentioned it, I must add that this does not apply

    only to the South.

    (3) When learners come to this country, they might innocently

    use this phrase to someone who would be OUTRAGED, and the visitor

    to our country would suffer terrible consequences.

    (4) Thank you, Barbara, for giving me the courage to repeat my

    heartfelt advice to learners: Do NOT use this phrase. Period.

    Have a nice day!

  4. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: cotton picking

    My dad grew up in the South. They were white and they were poor. They picked cotton.

    Does it have the racial overtones of slavery or does it mean "poor and worthless"?

    (I am not worried about violating the rules of the forum in this case - we are explaining why it's objectionable, not making sweeping statements about people.)
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #8

    Re: cotton picking

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    My dad grew up in the South. They were white and they were poor. They picked cotton.

    Does it have the racial overtones of slavery or does it mean "poor and worthless"?

    (I am not worried about violating the rules of the forum in this case - we are explaining why it's objectionable, not making sweeping statements about people.)
    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****

    I do not know, Barbara, what exact overtones it has.

    But can you imagine what would happen if a foreign visitor

    innocently used this expression in certain settings?

    I guess the learners who are reading this thread will just have to

    decide for themselves -- just as they do when there is a difference

    of opinion about a grammar question.

    Thank you again for permitting me to explain the basis of my advice

    to our wonderful, sincere, and innocent learners.

    Have a nice day!

  5. mayita1usa's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: cotton picking

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    My dad grew up in the South. They were white and they were poor. They picked cotton.

    Does it have the racial overtones of slavery or does it mean "poor and worthless"?
    I also used to hear that this phrase had racist overtones, but the origin of the expression doesn't actually indicate that, as Barb says: there were lots of people who picked cotton, not just African slaves. My mom used this expression all the time, and she was extremely concientious when it came to such things.

    However, that doesn't change the fact that some people are offended by it, even if there's no etymological reason to be.

    I'd like to reiterate this question to TheParser: Is there a specific part of the country where this is most likely to be perceived as offensive? If you don't know what overtones it has, what is your experience with people being outraged by it?

    Thanks much for your insight.

  6. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: cotton picking

    For the record, I am not discounting the advice to not use expressions likely to cause offense. I personally find "goddamn" to be very offensive while others see it as a mild oath. I would be surprised and annoyed to find someone advising learners with "Oh, use 'goddamn' all you want. Only prudes are offended." The advice should be "If there are some who are offended, don't use it!" I do agree.


    But in this particular case, since his experience of "outrage" is so vastly different than my "mildly amusing" (again, Yosemite Sam!), I did want to learn more.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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