Posted by ESC on August 09, 2001
In Reply to: Honest Injun posted by R. Berg on August 08, 2001
: : : : Where does it come from...
: : : I'm sure it's 'honest Injun', where 'injun' is a corruption of 'indian' and is meant to imply that a particular 'red indian', as Native Americans were called a couple of 100 years ago, was an honest one, ie 'honest' by white man's standards, which were very different from the long standing native ones and not necessarily of the best!
: : And it's usually used as a rejoinder when one's truthfulness has been questioned, as in "Are you sure it wasn't you who broke the window?" "Honest injun!"...
: From Eric Partridge, Dictionary of Catch Phrases: American and British, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day:
: honest Injun (occ. 'Indian'): 'Honour bright!', you can take my word for it: orig. early 1880s, US; in Brit. use by c. 1895, mostly owing to the popularity of Mark Twain's books; obsolete by mid C20.
: I have a hunch, not empirically supported, that the phrase is based on an idea that American Indians were extremely truthful whereas white people were prone to lying (cf. "White man speak with forked tongue").
HONEST INJUN - "from Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, has been traced back to 1851, but it is probably much older than that. Originally it was probably an expression of sarcastic derision - 'as honest as an Indian.' But later it came to mean about the same thing as the British 'honor bright' or the American 'scout's honor' - a pledge of truth and honesty." From Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988).