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Fruitbat
08-19-2014, 11:48 PM
It seems to me that I hear the term "folks" used a lot when Black people are being discussed, but rarely when White people are being discussed. Just wondering if anyone has any thoughts on it.

Maryn
08-19-2014, 11:50 PM
We exercise walk in the same small number of places. There are a number of people we see often, and at least three of them greet us with "Hi, folks!" or something very similar. We're white, and the greeters are, too. I don't think any of the black people we exchange greetings with uses "folks."

So it may be regional, or its race-related usage regional. You're in Texas, is that right? I'm in New York state.

Maryn, far from NYC, however

Fruitbat
08-19-2014, 11:57 PM
Right, I'm near Houston, but it stands out to me now from reading about Ferguson. I'm from that area so I guess it could even be some difference between here and there. Thanks.

Hoplite
08-19-2014, 11:57 PM
Living in Colorado and Washington I've heard 'folks' used for any and everybody. I'm white, I use 'folks' some times to reference any group of people as I would use 'they', 'them', 'people', etc.

Los Pollos Hermanos
08-20-2014, 12:50 AM
I tend to use 'folks" in much the same way as Hoplite, but about 4,500 miles to the east.

In the UK we often say 'old folks home' instead of calling it a residential home for the elderly. Or 'going to see the folks' can mean going to see your parents - possibly because you think of them as being old?! ;) I'm not sure if this varies between ethnic groups over here.

Kylabelle
08-20-2014, 01:21 AM
I use the word 'folks' to refer to anyone but generally when I want to make the tone of what I'm saying a bit friendlier or more relaxed. Maybe that's why you're noticing it being used to refer more to African Americans in relation to the Ferguson events. I know I have heard Black speakers refer to Black folks rather often (not in this particular context but generally.) Well, and I've heard the phrase 'white folks' a lot too, come to think of it.

I don't believe it is racially derogatory in any kind of stand-alone fashion.

Fruitbat
08-20-2014, 01:25 AM
"I use the word 'folks' to refer to anyone but generally when I want to make the tone of what I'm saying a bit friendlier or more relaxed. Maybe that's why you're noticing it being used to refer more to African Americans in relation to the Ferguson events..."

Yes, that makes sense.

Maryn
08-20-2014, 01:37 AM
Yeah, that's a good explanation. It's a word you use when you want to be "folksy" (duh!), sort of friendly, casual, down-home. It's a lot warmer than "you people." (What, brunettes? Writers? People who wear sandals?)

Maryn, all of the above--and that's all, folks!

J.S.F.
08-20-2014, 03:07 AM
I'm a nice white Jewish kid from Toronto, Canada, and I always interchanged the terms 'folks' with 'parents' or, when I talk about my wife's parents, I tend to say "they're good people"--and they are.

To be honest, I've never heard the word 'folks' associated mainly with black people. I considered it a term for everyone. Guess that's what you get for growing up in Canada. (shrugs)

slhuang
08-20-2014, 03:24 AM
I use it all the time to be casual, too, regardless of race. :) Here's a hypothesis extrapolated from just me, sample size of one: it's possible the reason you feel like you see it more when talking about POC doesn't have to do with POC at all, but with gender, as I try to use "folks" as an equivalent replacement for "guys" in my speech. I kinda still use "guys" and consider it gender-neutral, but I preference "folks" and consider it a bit more all-inclusive. So it's possible other people do this too, and that in spaces that are more aware of diversity in general it's become the preferenced casual word rather than "guys"?

Just a thought. ;) May or may not have ANY merit! :D

maxmordon
08-20-2014, 11:37 AM
I tend to use it as a casual manner to refer s group of people. Ever since my Goon Show phase, I keep it hearing it as said by Neddy Seagoon.

"Hi, folks. Hello folks! It's me, Neddy Seagoon!"
"You rotten swine, you deaded me!"

Ken
08-20-2014, 11:44 PM
"All music is folk music. I ain't never heard a horse sing a song." - Louis Armstrong

Roxxsmom
08-22-2014, 11:20 AM
Everyone, from the president to self help gurus, seems to be using the word folks to refer to people in a generic sense these days. I've read some articles (http://www.today.com/id/23227115#.U_btgmORMTA) recently that deplore the heavy use of this word as an example of how we're sort of dumbing ourselves down. "Folks" is a word that conjures up images of informality or rustic simplicity, and we seem to like thinking of people that way, so the argument goes.

However, it wouldn't surprise me if it were being used more for black people than white people in a generic sense (aka "black folks"). I can think of a couple of possible reasons, one more sinister than the other.

1. If you are white, using the term "black people" sounds sort of distancing or otherizing. Kind of like Ross Perot's "you people" from way back when (it didn't go over well, needless to say). Folks sounds more homey and friendly, maybe.

2. Since the word "folks" conjures up images of rustic simplicity, it could be used more for black people because the connotation is that they're more rustic and simple?


I'm a nice white Jewish kid from Toronto, Canada, and I always interchanged the terms 'folks' with 'parents' or, when I talk about my wife's parents, I tend to say "they're good people"--and they are.



When I was growing up in CA, it was pretty common to use the term "my folks" or "your folks" to refer to parents. "I'm going home to see my folks over the holidays" and so on. People in my generation still refer to our parents this way, if we're lucky enough to still have them with us.

KTC
08-22-2014, 11:24 AM
I don't think I've ever heard the word used in any conversation ever here in Toronto. I've only heard it in movies. Occasionally I hear the term Old Folks' Home, but that's it.

heza
08-22-2014, 11:48 PM
I've read some articles (http://www.today.com/id/23227115#.U_btgmORMTA) recently that deplore the heavy use of this word as an example of how we're sort of dumbing ourselves down.

I think I might find that article offensive... I'm not sure. On the one hand, I can sort of understand the idea that people who wouldn't naturally use it might be using it now for political reasons. On the other hand, it's pretty offensive for someone to try to tell you that the shear act of using a word "folks" in your area have always used makes the world a dumber place. :/

Anyway, I'm in Houston--originally from Oklahoma--and we (myself and a lot of my friends and family) use "folks" frequently and for pretty much any group of related people. White folks, black folks, rich folks, northern folks, those folks on the corner, the folks back home... etc.

LJD
08-22-2014, 11:56 PM
I don't think I've ever heard the word used in any conversation ever here in Toronto. I've only heard it in movies. Occasionally I hear the term Old Folks' Home, but that's it.

Pretty much exactly what I was thinking. I hear the word so rarely...

Snowstorm
08-23-2014, 02:39 AM
I think I might find that article offensive... I'm not sure. On the one hand, I can sort of understand the idea that people who wouldn't naturally use it might be using it now for political reasons. On the other hand, it's pretty offensive for someone to try to tell you that the shear act of using a word "folks" in your area have always used makes the world a dumber place. :/

Anyway, I'm in Houston--originally from Oklahoma--and we (myself and a lot of my friends and family) use "folks" frequently and for pretty much any group of related people. White folks, black folks, rich folks, northern folks, those folks on the corner, the folks back home... etc.

Totally agree with you. I was raised in Kansas and use "folks" all the time too, as group of people or just "people" in general. And for someone to state that using it makes for a dumber place just smacks of arrogance.

shadowwalker
08-23-2014, 03:11 AM
I think I might find that article offensive... I'm not sure. On the one hand, I can sort of understand the idea that people who wouldn't naturally use it might be using it now for political reasons. On the other hand, it's pretty offensive for someone to try to tell you that the shear act of using a word "folks" in your area have always used makes the world a dumber place. :/

Agree! Upper Midwest here, and "folks" has been around longer than I have, and has nothing to do with race or gender - OR being dumb.

Ken
08-23-2014, 11:45 PM
To me, folk does have a connotation of simplicity. Not stupidity by any means. Simplicity in a good sense. No fancy dangled nonsense or highfalutin hoopla if you know what I mean. People can be simple and still be plenty intelligent. Hard to explain. If you want an insulting term of sorts bumpkin would be it. My 2 cents. Could be wrong.

Captcha
08-24-2014, 03:07 AM
I think for me there is a possible racist connotation. Not EVERY time the word is used, but, yeah, because it is kind of simple and folksy, if someone uses the word who isn't him/herself simple and folksy, it could sound as if the speaker is talking down to the audience. So if a normally formal white person started talking about 'folks' when speaking to a black audience, I'd read it as racist.

So, not always, by all means. But possibly.

shadowwalker
08-24-2014, 06:49 AM
I think for me there is a possible racist connotation. Not EVERY time the word is used, but, yeah, because it is kind of simple and folksy, if someone uses the word who isn't him/herself simple and folksy, it could sound as if the speaker is talking down to the audience. So if a normally formal white person started talking about 'folks' when speaking to a black audience, I'd read it as racist.

So, not always, by all means. But possibly.

"Normally formal" people around here use "folks". It's not some kind of quaint ruralism. As several others have mentioned, in many areas it's normal to use it, regardless of speaker or audience. I would hope, before anyone would assume anything racist, they would first observe the local manners of speech. As is said on AW, assume good intentions.

Roxxsmom
08-24-2014, 06:54 AM
I think I might find that article offensive... I'm not sure. On the one hand, I can sort of understand the idea that people who wouldn't naturally use it might be using it now for political reasons. On the other hand, it's pretty offensive for someone to try to tell you that the shear act of using a word "folks" in your area have always used makes the world a dumber place. :/

I had the same reaction. I'm all for being highbrow and and as against the dumbing down of America (and everywhere else) as the next person, and I even saw the point the author was trying to make, but yeah. It sounds a bit preachy.

It's really more about context.

Sometimes you do want to conjure up a sense of benign and gentle and homey. Then the use of the term folks seems to apply.

Interesting that the term isn't used much in Canada. It may be very regional.

If the term is indeed more prevalent in the Southern US, I wonder if its rise to national prominence is because the South has had such a prominent role in national politics in recent decades, with the Clinton and GW Bush presidencies, and also with the need for northern (and especially for more liberal) politicians to pick up at least a couple of Southern states in order to win elections.

I think the assumption of good intentions is important, however. Unless there's something that arouses suspicion that it is being used in a non symmetric or racist way by some, erm ... folks. :)

Ari Meermans
08-24-2014, 07:18 AM
I've used folks when addressing groups my entire life. I use it with everyone because, to me, "people" sounds cold and soulless. So, when family is here, it's "Folks, dinner's on the table." At work: "All right, folks, we have to be out of this room by ten o'clock."

Captcha
08-24-2014, 03:10 PM
"Normally formal" people around here use "folks". It's not some kind of quaint ruralism. As several others have mentioned, in many areas it's normal to use it, regardless of speaker or audience. I would hope, before anyone would assume anything racist, they would first observe the local manners of speech. As is said on AW, assume good intentions.

Obviously you'd have to look at the region it's being used in. In my region, and that of several other posters, "folks" is folksy.

I'm not running around searching for racism. But that doesn't mean I'm going to make myself insensitive to micro-aggressions, and I think there are situations in which the use of "folks" could be one of them, or at least part of one of them. That's all.

frimble3
08-25-2014, 08:03 AM
I've used folks when addressing groups my entire life. I use it with everyone because, to me, "people" sounds cold and soulless. So, when family is here, it's "Folks, dinner's on the table." At work: "All right, folks, we have to be out of this room by ten o'clock."That's the way I've generally heard it used around here, when the speaker is trying to sound, well, 'folksy': warm and 'we're all in this together' and so on.
Evoking that 'family' feeling. Generally, a positive thing.

It's really more about context.

Sometimes you do want to conjure up a sense of benign and gentle and homey. Then the use of the term folks seems to apply.

Interesting that the term isn't used much in Canada. It may be very regional.

I think the assumption of good intentions is important, however. Unless there's something that arouses suspicion that it is being used in a non symmetric or racist way by some, erm ... folks. :)
We use it up here, but I think it's not as commonly used as it is in some U.S. regions. You're spot-on about the context, I think.


I think for me there is a possible racist connotation. Not EVERY time the word is used, but, yeah, because it is kind of simple and folksy, if someone uses the word who isn't him/herself simple and folksy, it could sound as if the speaker is talking down to the audience. So if a normally formal white person started talking about 'folks' when speaking to a black audience, I'd read it as racist.
By the same token, if a normally (or abnormally) formal white person starts talking about 'folks' when speaking to a white audience, I read it as classist. One step above 'you people' or 'peasants'. Definitely on the 'talking down' axis. Again, context.

Jerboa
08-25-2014, 04:26 PM
Very interesting thread - I had no idea 'folks' meant something different over the pond. I'm with Los Pollos Hermanos. Folks = parents. Or 'old folks' home.' Older people.

Or, because I'm a working-class scummer, I also see it as something posher people say, along with 'chaps.'

Thorberta
08-26-2014, 05:12 PM
I've never heard in any racist sense, and really, I haven't heard it used much in the context of 'white folks' and 'black folks' in general.

I'm Canadian, I spent my childhood in Nova Scotia (so East coast) and that's where all my extended family live, but have lived most of my life in Ontario. I've found using 'folk(s)' is way more common out east. My accent semi-returns when I go to visit family and folks is one of the words I use way more often. Like others have said, it's a more pleasant way of saying 'people' or a substitute for 'guys'. I might say to a friend or family member, 'We were thinking of coming down tomorrow to visit you folks.'

Stacia Kane
08-31-2014, 07:51 PM
It seems to me that I hear the term "folks" used a lot when Black people are being discussed, but rarely when White people are being discussed. Just wondering if anyone has any thoughts on it.

Actually, this is something I've noticed in the past, and have commented on elsewhere, too. I wouldn't say it's something I see constantly, but I've noticed enough articles or forum or blog posts that talk about "white people" and "black folks," that it's hard for me to think there's not some element of casual, even unrealized, racism there.

I think a lot of the time it's either not conscious or not intended as a slur, but it's still patronizing and offensive; IMO it treats black people like some sort of simple-minded, shantytown hymn-singing "other," (they're just folks, they're all earthy and real, unlike those snobby white people with their mayonnaise and bad rhythm; it's almost like a Magical Negro sort of thing, if you know what I mean?) whereas I think the intention of the white people using it often is to seem like they're totally down with the black people, yo. Which is just as offensive. It's like saying, "to prove I'm totally okay with black people and see them as equals to me, I'm going to use special terms and phrases to talk to them, because they probably don't really understand proper English and need casual alternatives."

Or as Captcha put it:


I think for me there is a possible racist connotation. Not EVERY time the word is used, but, yeah, because it is kind of simple and folksy, if someone uses the word who isn't him/herself simple and folksy, it could sound as if the speaker is talking down to the audience.



So...yeah, maybe I sound a little overzealous here, but this has bugged me for a long, long time, so it's nice to see that at least one other person has noticed it, too. I see this all the time, and it's almost always used by white people, and rarely do those same white people describe other white people as "white folks."

slhuang
08-31-2014, 10:36 PM
Interesting. I've consciously edited "[black/white/other demographic qualifier] people" to be "[demographic qualifier] folk" because it sounds more inclusive to me.

I'd say when I use "folk(s)" (or "guys" or "gals" or "dudes" or "dudettes" or "brethren" or "sisteren" or "peoples" or "kids" or "families" or any other slightly more casual or more specific term) with a racial qualifier instead of with the word "people," it's explicitly because the word "people" can sometimes sound othering to me -- as in, "those people."

If I say, "white folks . . ." that sounds less to me like "those people not like me" and more like, "folks who are folks like me but who happen to be white." Cuz we're all just folks, you know? :D

As another for-instance, I feel like you might hear, "Asian people can't drive" but "my church has a lot of Asian folk." Or "I don't know any disabled people" but "this convention is making a big effort to be great for disabled folk."

Like any word I'm sure it can be used in multiple ways, and I can see where people might use it to be patronizing rather than inclusive; additionally, just because I try to use it this way doesn't mean I succeed -- intent doesn't mean much yadda yadda. But I do find that a lot of times I find it less othering -- and less accusatory when talking about sensitive topics (like, I'd probably prefer to write "white folk might not realize....[x thing about white privilege]" rather than "white people might not realize...."). That's just my perspective though, which might be wrong :D, and this also might have regional differences, so. *knows nothing*

Stacia Kane
09-01-2014, 06:38 AM
Sorry, just to clarify (in case my ramble was confusing) I don't think "folks" is always racist or othering or whatever, just that it really bothers me when I see someone refer to "white people" and "black folks" in the same post/article/essay, or to suddenly start talking about "black folks" when they have never referred to whites as anything but "people."

I don't think the word "folks" is offensive in and of itself, in other words; just when it's used exclusively to refer to African-Americans or other POC.

But again, I'm white, and this is something I notice or pay attention to when it's used by other white people. It bothers me when they do it, but I certainly don't mean to imply that any POC should be offended or bothered by it if you/they are not. It's not my place to tell you what "should" offend you, and I hope I don't seem as though I'm trying to do that.

slhuang
09-01-2014, 06:52 AM
Well, like you said, institutional biases can be unintentional and unaware, and I think you brought up some really good points! This thread is definitely going to make me make sure I think about the way I use "folks" versus "people" in the future, just to make sure.



But again, I'm white, and this is something I notice or pay attention to when it's used by other white people. It bothers me when they do it, but I certainly don't mean to imply that any POC should be offended or bothered by it if you/they are not. It's not my place to tell you what "should" offend you, and I hope I don't seem as though I'm trying to do that.

To be fair -- when we talk about things unique to the Black experience (in America or any other country), I certainly benefit from white privilege along those specific axes, and I am sure I am affected by institutional racism as well. Though being a POC may give me an understanding of cross-demographic issues, it would be ridiculous for me to try to claim it gave me an understanding of anything specific to the African-American or Black experience or authority to speak on that. :) In other words, I'm sorry if it sounded like I was saying "you're wrong because I'm a POC and that gives me the authority to say so" -- eep! -- as that wasn't my intention. I was just trying to offer my perspective, which has no more authority of experience in this case than yours. :D

Stacia Kane
09-01-2014, 05:31 PM
Lol, you didn't, I just wanted to make sure no one saw my post(s) that way. :)

shaldna
09-06-2014, 12:34 PM
It seems to me that I hear the term "folks" used a lot when Black people are being discussed, but rarely when White people are being discussed. Just wondering if anyone has any thoughts on it.

I'm Irish, so everyone is 'folks' around here.

PinkUnicorn
06-26-2015, 03:48 AM
I use the word "folks" all the time, both in conversation and writing. I almost never use the word "people" either.

I say: "Thems folk down the road" not "Those neighbors down the road" or "Those people down the road"

I say: "Folks around here..." not "People around here..."

I say: "We has got new folks moving in over there." not "There are new people moving in next door"

But I never use the term "hi folks" that just sounds weird on my ears and before reading this thread, I can't recall ever seeing it or hearing it used before.

Maybe we Mainers just talk funny? (Tourists from the lower 48 are always telling us Maine folk we talk weird.) I can't say as I've ever heard anyone other tourists who didn't use the word "folk" every day. It's just normal way we talk around here and we always find the summer tourists to be the strange ones even though they tell us we be the strange folk.

I write the way I talk too, and it drives editors crazy. Editors always do a jaw drop when they see my manuscripts, they say I have the worst English they've ever seen. My books read the way I talk too, because I won't let editors edit out my "bad" or "broken" English as they call it. This is the way my people talk and the characters in all my books are the same race & culture as me (I don't write white characters) and all my characters live in my hometown as well. If I let editos change the way my books were written, they'd be editing out the "local flavour" which says, "these characters are from this town". This is who we are. This is how we talk. I don't like it when editors try to make my stories "appeal to mainstream readers". I'm not writing for white folks, I'm writing for local folks, and local readers want characters who ACCURATELY represent how we think, act, and talk, even if we do think, act, and talk in bad or broken English.

I wondering if editing out regional lingos of authors, causes our books overall to be less diverse? I think it does, that's why I won't let editors remove the regional "speak" of my characters dialogue.

Layla Nahar
06-26-2015, 03:56 AM
I don't go to Maine enough.

I say 'menfolk'. But I rarely say 'womenfolk', though I could... I just haven't had much call for sentences with it. But I often say 'I like the menfolk'.

kuwisdelu
06-26-2015, 05:29 AM
I say "merfolk".

Layla Nahar
06-26-2015, 05:47 AM
You say merfolk, I say menfolk
you say dumdadum, I say eyepoke

merfolk, menfolk
something, eyepoke

Lets call the whole thing off!

Angela
07-07-2015, 09:06 PM
Around here (south Georgia) it's used just as frequently as "people" by just about every ethnic and age group, or at least by those who have been here a while.

"You people", "you folks", "black people", "black folks", "white people", "white folks", the frequency seems to be roughly equal. You also hear "womenfolk", "menfolk" (and the peculiar "ladyfolks"), as well as "my folks", "your folks", "old folks", "young folks", "these folks", "those folks", and even the incorrect "them folks".

You're also just as likely to hear "your people" and "my people", as in "Who are your people?", "Are your people the _______s?" or "My people originally came from ________." when someone's asking you about your family tree or telling you about theirs. Usually, they're trying to figure out if they know your family or if you're related somewhere down the line. :)

ETA: Just realized this is a revival. :gone:

butterflycollective
08-12-2015, 07:33 AM
I use it. Most people do here regardless of race, ethnicity.

Liosse de Velishaf
08-12-2015, 06:52 PM
At the risk of continuing a necro, I'd imagine the "folks" issue is a regional one. I here it plenty in the South, and also in my home state in the Midwest. A lot of African Americans speak dialects that developed in the South, so it's not that odd to here them using it. If it matters, I here black people saying "black folks" and also "white folks" a lot more than white people in my area. Not because it signifies being dumb or simple, but because it reflects their dialect.

However, also:
https://medium.com/matter/how-a-once-friendly-neighborly-word-folks-became-a-quiet-sort-of-insult-c54e05b6a069

heza
08-12-2015, 07:10 PM
However, also:
https://medium.com/matter/how-a-once-friendly-neighborly-word-folks-became-a-quiet-sort-of-insult-c54e05b6a069

I'm not sure what she's saying in that article. If it's that Obama is turning "folks" into an insult because he uses it strictly in an "us vs. them" way, then I think that's wrong. If you read his speeches, then it's apparent that he just uses folks for people (or his speech writer does). He doesn't seem to use it only for groups he feels negatively about.