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Have you ever heard of a prison group called Peckerwood? I'm curious to know if this association is similar to the Aryan Nation or worse. — Brent, La Jolla

A few of them have ended up in prison, but the group didn't start there. Apparently deciding we need yet one more white-supremacist group, some high schoolish types in the Lancaster-Palmdale area, north of Los Angeles, started calling themselves the Peckerwoods a few years ago. You'll trip over a few around Fresno, too. Uniform of the day: shaved head, narrow suspenders, steel-toed boots. Best known for: general thuggery, hanging out, staring real hard at people they don't like, yelling epithets, and challenging the oxymorons of SHARP (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) to fights that never seem to materialize. Compare to the Aryan Brotherhood (not Nation, if you are referring to the prison gang) — there aren't nearly as many Peckerwoods, but they do have a catchier name.

In the 1800s, "peckerwood" was just another name for a woodpecker. In Southern slang, it also described a farmer too lazy to chop down the trees on his land and instead killed them by stripping a ring of bark from each one. So, but the late 1930s, when Southern whites moved north to find work, peckerwood joined cracker, hillbilly, and redneck as general terms for lazy, ignorant rustics. It's now evolved into a general anti-white/Anglo pejorative, used in prison and out. (Oddly, it's also an Italian mafia term for a non-Italian, according to a report by the FBI). But anyway, no matter where you find him, a skinhead is just a bonehead with a bad haircut.

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