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McDonnell F-4C Phantom in Vietnam War camouflage, with "Coonass Militia" painted on the tail (1981)
McDonnell F-4C Phantom in Vietnam War camouflage, with "Coonass Militia" painted on the tail (1981)

Coonass, or Coon-ass, is a term for a person of Cajun ethnicity. Some consider the term an ethnic insult, even though many Cajuns use the word in regard to themselves, much like the "n" word and African Americans.

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Socioeconomic factors appear to influence how Cajuns are likely to view the term: working-class Cajuns tend to regard the word "coonass" as a badge of ethnic pride, whereas middle- and upper-class Cajuns are more likely to regard the term as insulting or degrading, even when used by fellow Cajuns in reference to themselves.[1]:138 (In sociolinguistics, this type of behavior is termed covert prestige.) Despite an effort by Cajun activists to stamp out the term, it can be found on T-shirts, hats, and bumper stickers throughout Acadiana, the 22-parish Cajun homeland in south Louisiana.[1]:138 The term is also used by some of Cajun descent in nearby East Texas and Mississippi.


The origins of "coonass" are obscure, and Cajuns have put forth several folk etymologies in an effort to explain the word's origin. Some amateur linguists believe that the word refers to the Cajuns' occasional habit of eating raccoons, or from the use of coonskin caps by the Cajuns' ancestors while fighting in the Battle of New Orleans or in the Revolutionary War under Spanish colonial Governor Bernardo de Gálvez. Other amateur linguists attribute the term to the racial slur "coon," used in reference to African-Americans — thus implying that Cajuns are lower than African-Americans in social standing. Another holds that the term derives from the shape of a woman after having children (like a raccoon viewed from above).[1]:96–97 And yet another folk etymology maintains that "coonass" is a corruption of the French and Latin word cunnus, a vulgar term for "vulva".

The most popular folk etymology, however, stems from late Louisiana congressman and cultural activist James "Jimmy" Domengeaux, who maintained that "coonass" derived from the continental French word connasse. According to the French Wiktionary, the French Larousse dictionary, and the French Wikipedia, connasse entered the French language at the beginning of the 19th century and the term translates loosely to "dirty prostitute". Domengeaux asserted that Frenchmen used the term in reference to Cajun soldiers serving in France during World War II, and that Anglo-American soldiers overheard the term, transformed it into "coonass" and brought it back to the US as a disparaging term for Cajuns. Citing Domengeaux's etymology, Louisiana legislators passed a concurrent resolution in the 1980s condemning the word. Contrary to popular belief, the lawmakers did not ban the term.[1]:96–97 Research has since disproved Domengeaux's connasse etymology. Indeed, photographic evidence shows that Cajuns themselves used the term prior to the time in which connasse allegedly morphed into "coonass".[1]:97


"Coon ass flash light" with "extra batteries", a novelty item on display in a Lake Providence, Louisiana drugstore (December 2006)
"Coon ass flash light" with "extra batteries", a novelty item on display in a Lake Providence, Louisiana drugstore (December 2006)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Bernard, Shane K. (2003). The Cajuns: Americanization of a people. Jackson, Mississippi, US: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1-57806-523-3.
  2. ^ Saban says use of slur was taken out of context 
  3. ^ Bobby Charles lyrics
  4. ^ "TX Republican Calls Language of Displaced Katrina Kids 'Coonass' (Watch)". Eur Web. 31 Jul 2014. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  5. ^ Yvette (31 Jul 2014). "TEXAS LAWMAKER CALLS KATRINA CHILD VICTIMS "COONASS"". Black Like Moi. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  6. ^ Flatow, Nicole (30 Jul 2014). "Texas Lawmaker Uses Ethnic Slur To Describe Child Victims Of Hurricane Katrina". Think Progress. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
This page was last edited on 9 November 2018, at 00:59
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