Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Good Ol’ Boys and Old Boys’ Club/Network: NOT THE SAME THING

Posted by chinesecanuck on April 23, 2008

I’ve seen many posts around the Internet which seem to equate Good Ol’ Boys with the Old Boys’ Club, including this Wikipedia entry. This is NOT TRUE. Wikipedia’s definition of a Good Ol’ Boy (different from the previous link) is: Northern/Western-European descent, who lives in a rural area and/or subscribes to a traditionally “rural” lifestyle. The Good Ol’ Boy is synonymous with, yes, you’ve got it, WHITE TRASH.

Meanwhile, a member of the Old Boys’ Club/Network (not the Good Ol’ Boys’ Network….this doesn’t really exist) is the opposite. They’re historically white too, but these people are educated, wealthy and have influence in businesses, politics, etc.  Often, they have official organizations where they network (which is how they make connections and have an easier time moving up in terms of career). They are also main line Protestants (Anglican/Episcopalian, Congregationalist, Presbyterians, etc) rather than members of an Evangelical church. They generally come from certain schools. This term comes from the United Kingdom, where many top “public” (read: private and boarding) schools use the term “Old Boy” for their alumni. This term is also used in many Commonwealth countries. Also, many UK/Commonwealth girls’ schools call their alumnae, “Old Girls” and the term isn’t insulting to these schools’ grads. In fact, many are PROUD to be Old Girls of X school.

Do you think there’s a reason why people are confused? Or are only people in North America, where the term “Old Boy” and “Old Girl” aren’t generally used (especially in the US, since even Exeter and Andover won’t use Old Boys/Old Girls for its grads)?

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5 Responses to “Good Ol’ Boys and Old Boys’ Club/Network: NOT THE SAME THING”

  1. […] SAME THING 23 Apr 2008 | 07:46 am | Category: Uncategorized       Trudy W. Schuett wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptI’ve seen many posts around the […]

  2. This is an interesting piece. I’m from the US and I don’t believe that there is a mix-up when people from the states use the term Good Ol’ Boys network. In the US the Good Ol’ Boys network actually has its roots in slavery & the confederacy. Good Ol’ Boys were actually southern gentlemen who often had good educations & were mainly educated in the South these universities include University of Virginia, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss (University of Mississippi), Auburn, George Mason, Univ of Georgia, etc. They are overwhelmingly protestant & well-to-do and many to this day still believe that the South should have seceded from the North during the Civil war. Their culture is very much rooted in the rural Southern traditions of the US & you will see many of them flying the confederate flag. The network that they are in has been used to secure postions of power w/in the south and many of them have been mayors, governors, senators & even presidents of the US. I do agree that the term has since devolved into a synonym for white trash but that isn’t what it was primarily used to refer to in the beginning.
    This is just an aside but where I grew up (in Maryland which is definitely a Southern state & interestingly enough emancipated slaves well after the rest of the South was forced to) there used to be a store in the mall called Good Ol’ Boys. They sold confederate flags, race cars (car racing as a sport also grew out of the good ol’ boy network during prohibition) & other {white} southern cultural artifacts. Just to give you an idea I come from a city 30 minutes away from DC & 15 minutes down the road from the richest black county in the US & my city has a lot of black people in it. I hated that store and my dad never let me go in there. He is actually the person who first taught me the phrase good ol’ boy b/c he was referring to Strom Thurmond (when the scandal of his black daughter hit & who ran for president under the dixicrat ticket in the 50s) & he used it with such contempt that day. In the black community (i’m black) the phrase is used to also represent the corruption & history of oppression that these southern gentlemen have visited upon black people. by this I mean, the connotations when my father used it were: slavery, the KKK, rape of black females, heaps of mistrust & oh so much more.

  3. Livininphilly,

    Thanks for your note. Not being from the US and definitely not being a Southerner, I did not know this. But what about men from the Northeast? Surely, they don’t want to be called a Good Ol’ Boy!

  4. Jerry said

    I don’t agree that the good ‘ol boy is a southern slave thing. At least not today. Today it refers to someone who has connections to get things done. A good ‘ol boy may not follow the rules, but he knows who to talk to in order to get around those rules and get what he wants while other may not be able to do that. Sort of a It’s-not-what-you-know,-but-who-you-know sort of thing.

    Often this is viewed from the other side. A person who is not a “good ‘ol boy” doesn’t have these connections and is stuck following the rules to get things done, which may keep him from ever getting them done.

  5. Jerry,

    Where I come from, someone who has the connections is part of the Old Boys’ Network and nothing else.

    Good Ol’ Boy sounds a little trashy. Old Boys’ Network, however, does not. Have you ever thought of applying “Good Ol’ Girl” to a very traditional women’s organization like, say, the DAR? Good Ol’ Girl and DAR just doesn’t sound right, does it? Old Girls’ Network, however, doesn’t sound that bad.

    p.s. Yes, the term “Old Girls” exists.

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