Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Chronology Of The Use Of The Name & Nickname "Pookie"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post documents a partial chronology of the use of the name and nickname "Pookie". The purpose of this chronology is to document that the name and nickname "Pookie" was used by people other than African Americans and the nickname "Pookie" wasn't always negatively associated with African Americans.

The content of this post is presented for linguistic and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publisher of this video on YouTube.

This pancocojams post is part of an ongoing series on African American* naming and nicknaming customs.
Other posts in this series can be accessed by clicking the "names and nicknames" tag.

Click for a companion pancocojams post about contemporary African American nicknames.

These excerpts are given in relative chronological order, with the oldest use that I found of the name or nickname "Pookie" given first.

Excerpt #1
Date: 1934 BIOGRAPHY: Thornton James "Pookie" Hudson; INTERVIEW DATE: 3/2/2004
"Thornton James “Pookie” Hudson was born on June 11, 1934 in Des Moines, Iowa. Hudson received his nickname from an aunt who babysat him....

Excerpt #2
[more on Pookie Hudson]
From Doo wop singer Pookie Hudson dies at 72, Posted 1/17/2007
"WASHINGTON (AP) — Pookie Hudson, lead singer and songwriter for the doo wop group The Spaniels, who lent his romantic tenor to hits like Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight and influenced generations of later artists, has died. He was 72.


Hudson's longtime manager, Wellington Bay Robinson, said the singer should be remembered for his great writing ability.

Robinson said Hudson wrote Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight ("...well, it's time to go") for a young woman he was dating at the time. "He was staying awful late at the young lady's house and her parents said ... he had to go. As he was walking home, that's what inspired him to write that song."

The Spaniels' signature song was a Top 5 R&B hit in 1954. The McGuire Sisters rushed out a version of Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight that sold even more copies. At the time, only black radio stations played Hudson's version, according to Carpenter.

The Spaniels' version was heard two decades later on the soundtrack of American Graffiti. Among the Spaniels' other Top 20 R&B hits, Carpenter said, were Baby, It's You,Peace of Mind and Let's Make Up….
Hudson was born Thornton James Hudson on June 11, 1934, in Des Moines. The Spaniels first came together at Roosevelt High School in Gary, Ind., where Hudson was raised and began singing in church choirs."...

Excerpt #3
Date: 1946
Ivy Lilian Wallace (7 October 1915 – 13 March 2006) was a British author/illustrator, artist and actress, best known for writing the Pookie series and The Animal Shelf series of illustrated children's stories.[1]
...Ivy joined Felixstowe Repertory theatre as an actress and when the Second World War broke out she joined the British film industry to make Ministry of Information films. Later in the War she joined the police and it was while working for them that she first thought of Pookie, the winged rabbit...

Ivy wrote ten Pookie books as well as the highly successful The Animal Shelf series for young children and The Young Warrenders for older ones. For over 20 years, Ivy's beautiful books became a publishing phenomenon and were worldwide bestsellers. Translated into several languages, Pookie was read as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. The stories were broadcast on Australian bush-radio in Pookie's Half-Hour and thousands of children attended Pookie rallies"...
The first book in Ivy Lilian Wallace's "Pookie" series was entitled Pookie and was published
in 1946.

Excerpt #4
Date: 1950s
"Milton Supman (January 8, 1926 – October 22, 2009) — known professionally as Soupy Sales — was an American comedian, actor, radio/television personality, and jazz aficionado.[5] He was best known for his local and network children's television show, Lunch with Soupy Sales (1953-1966), a series of comedy sketches frequently ending with Sales receiving a pie in the face, which became his trademark.


"Pookie the Lion, a lion puppet appearing in a large window behind Soupy (1950s), was a hipster with a rapier wit. For example: Soupy: "Do you know why my life is so miserable?" Pookie: "You got me!" Soupy: "That's why!" One of Pookie's favorite lines when greeting Soupy was, "Hey bubby... want a kiss?". In the Detroit shows, Pookie never spoke but communicated in whistles. That puppet also was used to mouth the words while pantomiming novelty records on the show."...

Excerpt #5
Date: 1964+
"Date of Birth 1965, Eccles, Manchester, England, UK
Birth Name: Joanna Quesnell
Mini Bio
Pooky Quesnel was born in 1965 in Eccles, Manchester, England as Joanna Quesnell. She is an actress, known for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016), Great Expectations (2012) and Enid (2009)."...

Excerpt #6
[more on Pooky Quesnel]
"Pooky Quesnel ... It takes me back a quarter of a century. Oxford University in the early 1980s was probably as fiercely competitive an environment as can be imagined. Whatever "field" you went into, it was vitally important to make your mark as quickly as possible – sports, journalism, politics, drama. Daunted, I personally did absolutely nothing. The student population produced conspicuous figures – famous within the bounds of the university, and whose future world domination everyone took for granted....

One of these Oxford celebrities was Pooky Quesnel. Her wonderful name – "really Joanna", people murmured – preceded her. You could not venture very far into artistic, musical, literary or dramatic circles without hearing something of her. Many an undergraduate that year came a social cropper by airily mentioning something Pooky had said to them, or implying a closer intimacy than was really the case. She was the Imogen Quest of Cowley, that summer of 1984."...

Excerpt #7
Date: 1969
"The Sterile Cuckoo (released in the UK as Pookie) is a 1969 American comedy-drama film released by Paramount Pictures that tells the story of an eccentric young couple whose relationship deepens despite their differences and inadequacies, and stars Liza Minnelli, Wendell Burton, and Tim McIntire.[2] It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Liza Minnelli) and Best Music, Song (Fred Karlin and Dory Previn for "Come Saturday Morning").

Mary Ann "Pookie" Adams (Minnelli) is an oddball, quirky teenager who meets the quiet, reserved Jerry Payne (Burton) while waiting for a bus heading to their colleges, which are near each other, where they have enrolled as freshmen. Jerry immediately sees that Pookie is different, even strange....

Jerry is beginning to settle into college life with his roommate (McIntire) when the aggressive Pookie shows up one Saturday morning out of the blue. They spend much time together over the weekend, and before long are seeing each other regularly....
A week alone with the needy and at times unstable Pookie makes Jerry realize more that they need time apart. Discovering later that she has left college, Jerry finds her in the same boarding house where she had stayed on the first day she came to visit. He puts her on a bus for home, and the young lovers part ways for good."

Excerpt #8
Date: 1978
From [1978]
First Appearance: October 23, 1978
Latest Appearance: June 12, 2016
Pooky is Garfield's teddy bear and best friend that Garfield discovered stuffed in a drawer"...

Excerpt #9
Date: 1991
"New Jack City is a 1991 American crime film based upon an original story and screenplay by Thomas Lee Wright, and directed by Mario Van Peebles in his directorial debut, who also co-stars in the film. The film stars Wesley Snipes, Ice-T, Allen Payne, Chris Rock, Mario Van Peebles and Judd Nelson. The film was released in the United States on March 8, 1991....
"Pookie" is One of the characters in this film.

Excerpt #10
[more information about Pookie from New Jack City
"Benny "Pookie" Robinson is a character in New Jack City. He is a crack addict from the start and turns into a police informant after completing rehab."


Pookie is sometimes mentioned in other popular culture, most notably Boondocks The Boondocks in the episode "Wingmen".
From The Boondocks (TV Series)
Wingmen (2006)
"New Jack City (1991)
"Dewey mentions the character Pookie in his poem"

Excerpt #11
[dates given 2007 and 2010; retrieved on April 13, 2017]
....”Pookie is a common euphemism to describe something cute. It is also often used as a pet name or as a term of endearment for one's significant other." added somehow. (was recently removed from wikipedia as a dicdef). thanks :) -Quiddity 03:08, 9 April 2006 (UTC)

It's the name of cartoon cat Garfield's teddy bear, incidentally. Equinox ◑ 13:20, 5 June 2009 (UTC)

Pet name
In my experience, pookie is a pet name, as attested in What’s Wrong, Little Pookie? by Sandra Boynton (and other such books Happy Birthday, Little Pookie); it’s also used in books by Ivy Wallace (UK 1950s). Don’t know if these are sufficient attestations – it’s admittedly more used orally (esp. in casual, intimate conversation) than in writing.
—Nils von Barth (nbarth) (talk) 22:58, 4 June 2010 (UTC)

The following information has failed Wiktionary's verification process.
Failure to be verified may either mean that this information is fabricated, or is merely beyond our resources to confirm. We have archived here the disputed information, the verification discussion, and any documentation gathered so far, pending further evidence.
Do not re-add this information to the article without also submitting proof that it meets Wiktionary's criteria for inclusion.


Noun" pookie
(colloquial) lover

A term of endearment used for a loved one"....

Excerpt #12
[This discussion was prompted by the use of the referent "Cousin Pookie" by then Democratic candidate for President Barack Obama in some of his campaign speeches in front of mostly Black audiences]
Date: 2007-2008
"'Pookie' keeps popping up in Obama's speeches

Folk character may help candidate connect with voters

JONATHAN TILOVE, Newhouse News Service Published, Thursday, January 31, 2008
"Barack Obama has been talking about Cousin Pookie again.

"I need you to grab Cousin Pookie to vote; I need you to grab Ray Ray to vote," the Illinois senator declared at a mostly black rally in Kingstree, S.C., two days before the South Carolina primary.
Last March, in a sermon at Brown Chapel in Selma, Ala., on the 42nd anniversary of the historic voting rights marches there, Obama also invoked Pookie's name.

"If Cousin Pookie would vote, if Uncle Jethro would get off the couch and stop watching SportsCenter and go register some folks and go to the polls, we might have a different kind of politics," he said. There were affirmations of recognition.

But for those not in the know, the question remains: Who is this Pookie?

After Selma, Newhouse News Service consulted some of America's best minds on black culture, language and politics. In their interviews and e-mails, Pookie emerged as a stock character of the black popular imagination, a name that came to personify the kind of layabout kin who, if endearing, is also a source of some embarrassment and consternation. And, it turns out, in his use of Pookie, Obama reveals something about himself.

"Pookie means a whole lot of different things; none of them are good," Kevin Gray, a South Carolina writer and activist, said in March. "Pookie's always the foil."

To linguist and writer John McWhorter, Pookie is the kind of ghetto character played by Cedric the Entertainer or Chris Tucker in one of those Barbershop or Friday movies. In the 1960s and '70s, he would have gone by Leroy, Tyrone or Otis.

Pookie, according to Michael Eric Dyson, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and writer about race, is "nearly a pop-culture folk-figure in black circles." He is the average black every-youth.
While Gray said Pookie goes way back, Mark Anthony Neal, professor of black popular culture at Duke University, believes he has come into his own only in the last decade, as a "metaphor for kin ... who everybody knows is just a little trifling and a little lazy."

Neal believes Pookie's rise is linked to the growth of the black middle class and "intimately connected to some of the anxieties that the black middle class has with regards to their relatives who have not been as financially successful. I'm sure Sen. Obama has a few Pookies in his own family."

"It's a real strong use of language," said Bakari Kitwana, the hip-hop writer, lecturer and activist. In dropping Pookie's name, Obama is signaling to those who question his blackness — because his mother was white and his father an African without slave ancestry — that he is not an outsider to black life.
"If you get it you get it, and if you don't, you don't care," Kitwana said. "I have a Pookie in my family."

Angela Dillard, a University of Michigan political scientist, has no Pookies in the family, but remembers "a few from the old neighborhood."

She wrote that she was a bit troubled by Obama's name-dropping given its "class implication, which doesn't sit well to my ears coming from someone with a relatively privileged background." Because of Obama's unusual family story, Dillard doubts he actually has a "Cousin Pookie," though maybe his wife, Michelle, does.

Indeed, Dyson, who wrote a book challenging Bill Cosby's critique of the failings of poor black youth, said in his e-mail that for Obama, Pookie "may be a kinder, gentler take on Cosby's reference to, and critique of, Shaniqua and Taliqua (as average black youth). So it's a way of Obama getting purchase on that brand of black self-critique and establishing ... his bonafides as a black figure willing to be critical of his own."

Emory University political scientist Andra Gillespie didn't hear Obama's reference to Pookie as unduly negative. "I think there's a lot going on there, but I don't think that Obama necessarily tried to don Cosby's mantle," she wrote. "I think he was being more folksy and personal."
Obama, Gillespie continued, is "very much a cultural chameleon and quite adept at code switching, or changing his pattern of speech to fit his audience. By referencing Cousin Pookie, he's showing that he's comfortable with Pookie without being condescending. (This is especially apparent because he says the name without affect or sounding dorky.)

She concluded, "By invoking the name of someone that might be familiar to a lot of black people, he's attempting to personalize his mobilization plea: Everyone has to vote, even your cousin that you hadn't thought to ask to vote."...

Excerpt #13
Dates: 2007-2008
[More comments about Barack Obama's use of the referent "Cousin Pookie"]
goldcanyonaz, Jan-26-08
"Can Pookie (& Nay-Nay) Get Some Love?
But for those not in the know, the question remains: Who is this Pookie?"

knowledgeispwr, Sat Jan-26-08
"Well apparently there are a whole lot of ignorant people in NC...
black and white, who are going around using "pookie" as an affectionate nickname."
"NC"= North Carolina.

Excerpt #14
[urban dictionary entry for "Pookie"]
A generic term used by African Americans to reference a lazy and aimless relative, who, however endearing, is also an embarrassment.

"I need you to grab Cousin Pookie to vote; I need you to grab Ray Ray to vote,"
-Barack Obama
by mijoca1 July 12, 2008

Excerpt #15
Date: beginning in 2008
"Happy Birthday, Little Pookie
Sandra Boynton, Random/Corey, $5.99 (18p) ISBN 978-0-375-86539-8
In Little Pookie's fourth adventure, the cartoon pig is so excited for its birthday that it wakes its parents twice in one night. To celebrate Little Pookie's big day, Daddy makes pig-shaped pancakes, and after Little Pookie's nap (though it's the parents who really need one) it's time for more surprises. "Attention, all Pooks!/ Are you here and awake?/ The time has arrived/ for your present and cake." Birthday boys and girls should relate to Pookie's elation, while adults should appreciate the commiserating wink. Up to age 3.
To date, White American author Sandra Boynton has published five children's books featuring a pig named "Little Pookie". The first book in that series Let’s Dance, Little Pookie was published in 2008.

Excerpt #16
Date: 2009
[urban dictionary entry for "Pookie n nem" [Pookie and them]
Pookie n nem
"Pookie n nem" are the proverbial ominous "hood" characters and or family member that every person with a connection to the ghetto knows. They can be called at will to "whoop" and or "bust a cap in" yo ass...

Can also be used to refer to any random people you know in the ghetto...

"I need you get grab Cousin Pookie to vote. I need you to get Ray-Ray to vote." - Obama
M: Oh, that is such a ghetto thing to do!
R: Oh fo real? Let's see how ghetto it get's when I call cousin pookie an ray ray n nem to bust a cap in yo ass!

D: Where you at?
L:I'm up the street from from "Pookie n nem"

#pookie n nem#ghetto#cousin#pookie n cousin ray-ray n nem#sheree
by Webster Merriam Wikipedia, December 09, 2009

Excerpt #17
Date: 2012

Ricky Smiley: Black vs. White Marching Bands

Tiara Washington Published on Jun 4, 2012

Ricky Smiley: Open Casket Sharp performance. Copyright belongs to Ricky Smiley and BET. I uploaded because the other versions of this video aren't really clear.
Comedian Ricky Smiley uses the nickname "Big Pookie" for his depiction of a heavy set bass drummer in a representative Black band. (beginning at 2:36 of this video)

Excerpt #18
Date: 2012
From RANT: Black people make up the stupidest nicknames
SweetpotatoPie 11-17-2012
"I know a pookie, mookie, a man man and a ren ren :|"

SexNdaCitY 11-17-2012
"I personally can't stand the nicknames "Pookie" and "Lil Man" Too overused and just not cute nor creative."

Excerpt #19
Date: 2014
"Cousin Pookie is back! And yes, he is still sitting on the couch.
By Nia-Malika Henderson October 20, 2014
"Cousin Pookie is back, y'all. Remember him? Last we checked, he was on somebody's couch. And Pookie was not thinking about voting because that's not what Pookie does. Pookie basically does Pookie.

Well, President Obama, desperate to get out the black vote, has revived the folk hero that is Cousin Pookie once again. Here's Obama at a rally on the South Side of Chicago for Gov. Pat Quinn on Sunday night:

"You've got to grab your friends, you’ve got to grab your co-workers, you know, don’t just get the folks who you know are gonna vote, you’ve got to find Cousin Pookie. He’s sitting on the couch right now watching football, hasn't voted in the last five elections, you’ve got to grab him, and tell him to go vote.”

Obama said virtually the same thing at a rally Sunday for Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is running for governor.

Yes, we are grateful that Obama name-dropped Cousin Pookie, because it means that we can recall all things Obama and Cousin Pookie. They make such a good pair that the urban dictionary cites Obama's reference to Pookie under the definition of "Pookie n nem": "The proverbial ominous 'hood' characters and or family member that every person with a connection to the ghetto knows."

Prior to Obama's invocation of Cousin Pookie, the most famous version of this stock character was Chris Rock's crack-addicted version in the classic movie "New Jack City" (1991).

Obama typically brought him up in front of black crowds, and when he did, it always brought laughter and recognition. It was a kind of code switching, easy proof that in fact, Obama was down with the people. (Sometimes Ray Ray would be in the mix, and less frequently, Uncle Jethro, Pookie's Southern white corollary). "I need you to grab Cousin Pookie to vote; I need you to grab Ray Ray to vote," Obama said in South Carolina at a rally during the 2008 primary battle. "If Cousin Pookie would vote, if Uncle Jethro would get off the couch and stop watching 'SportsCenter' and go register some folks and go to the polls, we might have a different kind of politics," he said in March 2007 in Selma, Ala."...

Excerpt #20
Date: 2014
[more comments about President Obama using the referent "Cousin Pookie"]
..."all this Cousin Pookie talk is just corny. I mean come on Obama! It is 2014. Cousin Pookie hasn’t been a meme since New Jack City."

As a result of the chronology presented above, it's my position that
1. The nickname and name "Pookie" began as (and perhaps may be for some people) an affectionate nickname for a male or female.

2. The highly negative and mildly negative connotations associated with the nickname "Pookie" can be attributed to
-economic class biases (biases against working class and poor people)

-external and internal racial biases (biases against poor working class and poor Black people (i.e. "ghetto" Black people)


-geographical biases (biases against people living in the American South).

The use of the nickname "Pookie" for the drug addict in the 1991 [Black] movie New Jack City cemented the highly negative association of that nickname with Black males. And the use of the name by Presidential candidate (and later President) Barack Obama further grafted a mildly negative African American connotation on the nickname "Pookie", which didn't at all have any negative, race based connotations to begin with.

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  1. Here's a reference that I found in a 1996 article about African comedians Cedric the Entertainer and Steve Harvey doing a standup comedy routine that mentions the nickname "Pookie":

    "Steve-cedric Team Even Has Talking Roaches" December 27, 1996|By Allan Johnson.
    "Steve Harvey and Cedric the Entertainer have a natural rapport on the WB Network's "The Steve Harvey Show" because the two standup comics have worked at it for years. It was a rapport born out of necessity.


    Cedric would work Harvey's Dallas comedy club...

    we developed some really great improv acts," Cedric says. "We did one with two roaches on the wall, and once the (apartment) lights were turned on, we would be sitting there on the wall talking about, `Hey, man, ain't that the dude that killed Pookie?' "