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Yokel is a derogatory term referring to the stereotype of unsophisticated country people.
In the UK, yokels are traditionally depicted as wearing the old West Country/farmhand's dress of straw hat and white smock, chewing or sucking a piece of straw and carrying a pitchfork or rake, listening to "Scrumpy and Western" music. Yokels are portrayed as living in rural areas of Britain such as the West Country, East Anglia, the Yorkshire Dales, the Scottish Highlands and Wales. British yokels speak with country dialects from various parts of Britain.
Yokels are depicted as straightforward, simple and naive, and easily deceived for failing to see through false pretenses. They are also depicted as talking about bucolic topics like cows, sheep, goats, wheat, alfalfa, fields, crops, tractors, and buxom wenches to the exclusion of all else. Broadly, they are portrayed as unaware of or uninterested in the world outside their own surroundings.
The development of television brought many previously isolated communities into mainstream British culture in the 1950s and 1960s. The Internet continues this integration, further eroding the town/country divide. In the 21st century British countrypeople are less frequently seen as yokels. In the British TV Show The Two Ronnies, it was asserted that despite political correctness, it is possible to poke fun at yokels as no-one sees themselves as being one.
Modern use of the term has been seen in the largely popular game Grand Theft Auto IV. The character Vlad Glebov refers to Niko and Roman Bellic as yokels at the beginning of the game to show their inferiority as poor Serbian immigrants who have yet to acclimate to the fast and sophisticated American culture.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary the term is a "by-form" of the personal name Richard (like Dick) and Hob (like Bob) for Robert. Although the English word "hick" is of recent vintage, distinctions between urban and rural dwellers are ancient.
According to a popular etymology, hick derives from the nickname "Old Hickory" for Andrew Jackson, one of the first Presidents of the United States to come from rural hard-scrabble roots. This nickname suggested that Jackson was tough and enduring like an old Hickory tree. Jackson was particularly admired by the residents of remote and mountainous areas of the United States, people who would come to be known as "hicks."
Another explanation of the term hick describes a time when hickory nut flour was used and sold. Tough times, such as the depression, led to the use of hickory nuts as an alternative to traditional grains. People who harvested, processed, or sold hickory products, such as hickory flour, were referred to as "hicks". The term was generalized over time to include people who lived in rural areas and were not considered as sophisticated as their urban counterparts.
Though not a term explicitly denoting lower class, some argue that the term degrades impoverished rural people and that "hicks" continue as one of the few groups that can be ridiculed and stereotyped with impunity. In "The Redneck Manifesto," Jim Goad argues that this stereotype has largely served to blind the general population to the economic exploitation of rural areas, specifically in Appalachia, the South, and parts of the Midwest.
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