Difference Between Redneck and Hillbilly

Redneck and Hillbilly are American slang terms that are used to refer to different types of people. They are usually frowned upon by many. However, each of them had a different meaning originally, which changed over time due to different interpretations. They have many other differences between them as well.

Redneck vs Hillbilly

The main difference between Redneck and Hillbilly is that the term ‘Redneck’ is an offensive slang that is generally used for labourers who live in white rural areas in the Southern United States whereas the term ‘Hillbilly’ is a derogatory slang that is used for any kind of person who lives in the mountains, has an unsophisticated lifestyle, and is somewhat socially awkward.

Redneck vs Hillbilly

The term ‘Redneck’ was given to people whose necks would get sunburned or turned ‘red’ by working under the sun for too long. Such jobs were only popular among the white labourer class of people who generally dwelled in the Southern United States. However, throughout time, the word was used in different contexts, which gave it an entirely new meaning.

Meanwhile, the term ‘Hillbilly’ is used to refer to any person who resides in an isolated mountainous area and does not have much sophistication in his lifestyle. They are considered to be socially awkward and apathetic towards their lifestyle and clothes. However, its meaning has gone through almost no changes, and people use it nowadays with the same connotation.

Comparison Table Between Redneck and Hillbilly

Parameters of ComparisonRedneckHillbilly
MeaningIt is a slang term that was used for the white people of the labourer’s class living in the Southern United States.It is a slang term that was used for any socially awkward and unsophisticated person who lives in the mountains.
ConnotationThey were considered to be better than Hillbillys.They were considered to be a lower class as compared to Rednecks.
OriginsIt began to be used for Southern men who work under the sun for long hours.It was derived from Scottish expressions including ‘hill-folk’ and ‘billie’.
ChangesIts meaning went through many changes.Its meaning did not go through any changes.
DescriptionsA Redneck was someone who had orthodox thinking while living in a city or a village.A Hillbilly was supposed to be entirely cut off from the modern world. 

What is Redneck?

Redneck is an American slang that is frowned upon by many people. It is used to refer to white people who are not that well off, often those who live in rural areas of the Southern United States. The meaning of this term comes from the situations in which white people would work for long hours under the sun. Due to this, they got ‘red necks’ or sunburned necks.

The term has its roots in the 19th Century when farmers would work for long hours in the fields. These people were considered to be uneducated, prejudiced, orthodox, and even superstitious. Even though many people consider this term to be offensive, Southern locals often call themselves Rednecks while joking.

Regardless, the term went through several changes as many people interpreted it differently. It has now been used with various contexts that changed through time. In one of its phases, the word was used to refer to people who would not conform to how things usually happen. Later, it came to be associated with anti-establishment while being pro-labour.

However, originally, redneck had close associations with being a racist. These people had conservative beliefs and weren’t in tune with modern life and ideas. Interestingly, this term is referred to be not as derogatory as the term ‘Hillbilly’.

What is Hillbilly?

The term ‘Hillbilly’ is another derogatory American slang. It is used for any kind of person that lives isolated from modern societies, and most probably in mountainous areas. People like these were considered to have no sophistication. They didn’t think about how they appeared or how their lifestyle was.

Such people were known to live in the rural mountain regions of the Southern United States. These included Appalachia and the Ozarks. This term also spread to be used in Western Areas. This included the Rocky Mountains and even the Rio Grande.

‘Hillbilly’ did not go through many changes. However, through time, people grew opinions about it being positive or negative. For example, the term also implied that such people are self-reliant and independent. However, other times, the term implied that such people are backward and violent.  

The term ‘Hillbilly’ has its roots in the Scottish dialect. It is considered to be derived from the words ‘hill-folk’ which is used for people who live in isolation on remote mountains, and ‘billie’, which was used for a companion. Regardless, the term was always used in a derogatory manner. This is why its use is still frowned upon by many people these days.

Main Differences Between Redneck and Hillbilly

  1. Redneck is a slang term that was used for the white people of labourer’s class living in the Southern United States whereas Hillbilly is a slang term that was used for any socially awkward and unsophisticated person who lives in the mountains.
  2. Rednecks were considered to be better than Hillbillys whereas Hillbillys were considered to be a lower class as compared to Rednecks.
  3. The term ‘Redneck’ began to be used for Southern men who work under the sun for long hours whereas the term ‘Hillbilly’ was derived from Scottish expressions including ‘hilly-folk’ and ‘billie’.
  4. Rednecks meaning went through many changes whereas Hillbillys meaning did not go through any changes.
  5. A Redneck was someone who had orthodox thinking while living in a city or a village whereas a Hillbilly was supposed to be entirely cut off from the modern world.

Conclusion

Redneck and Hillbilly are two terms that are used for people with a derogatory connotation. A major difference between them is that ‘Redneck’ was originally used for white people who worked as labourers only whereas ‘Hillbilly’ was used for any person who lived an isolated and unsophisticated life in the mountains.

However, a common thing between the two is that the people of the Southern United States were most likely to be called these names. These people would sometimes even joke amongst each other by calling these names out. While the term ‘Redneck’ when through many changes in terms of meaning, the meaning of ‘Hillbilly’ remained the same.

References

  1. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.4324/9780203412107-15/white-people-rednecks-hillbillies-white-trash-marked-racial-subjects-john-hartigan-jr
  2. https://search.proquest.com/openview/f9ade62f4f09b3dbb3d2f37a3782de66/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=44156
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