Posted by Smokey Stover on February 23, 2004
In Reply to: Mighty wide posted by Steve on February 23, 2004
: Somewhere along the line I heard a phrase, "that's mighty wide of you." Now, I'm probably just naive, but I only had a vague notion that this was considered crass. Then I heard someone mention that they were quite offended when they heard a white person use the phrase...the offended party was black, by the way. Or, uhh...should I say African American? Anyway, is there some deeper, more sinister meaning to this phrase, or is it cultural slang that "shouldn't" be tossed around by those of another culture? Thanks!
I'm sure you mean "mighty white." I've read the phrase, never heard it spoken. Just missed it, I guess. According to the OED the meaning of "white" here is "Honourable; square-dealing." It says the usage is originally from the U.S., and cites it from 1877 on. It also cross-refers to "White man (orig. U.S. slang) A man of honourable character (such as was conventionally associated with one of European extraction)." Citations from 1883, 1887. I'm not sure what is meant by cultural slang, but this could be an example. The people using these phrases with these meanings, at least in the literature I have read, were not race-baiters, and had, as far as I can tell, no sinister intent. But one does detect a certain bias, and I can quite understand that blacks find such language demeaning and offensive. If someone today is still talking like that, he or she must be an elderly person using an idiom learned long ago, and means by it nothing more (or less) than "decent." Am I wrong? SS