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Cotton-Pickin Hands Off

Cotton-Pickin Hands Off Self Referential Button Museum
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Cotton-Pickin Hands Off button back Self Referential Button Museum
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"Keep your cotton-pickin hands off" is a phrase that was used casually by singer Johnny Bond in the song "Keep your cotton-pickin hands off my girl" in 1951 and again by singer Mickey Barnett in the song "Keep your cotton-pickin hands off my gin" in 1974. Picking cotton is a laborous act that would often leave workers with stinging or cut hands. As early as the 1700s, the term "cotton-picking" was used as slang for "damned" or other pejoratives. The phrase gained popularity in the 1940s and continued through the 1950s, even featuring in a Bugs Bunny children's cartoon. Derivatives of this phrase, such as "wait a cotton-picking minute" have also gained popularity over the years with the suggested meaning of cotton-picking as a replacement for damned.

In 2011, Canadian Parliament brought light to the racist connotation of the phrase and questioned the continued usage since most of those who had been known as cotton pickers were black slaves on plantations. Other phrases have been suggested to define frustration rather than one that has a racist or derogatory history.


Delacourt, S. (2011). Ignatieff accused of racist slur in cotton-picking controversy. Retrieved 10 September 2021, from

Thorpe, J. (2015). 5 Racist English Phrases With A Seriously Awful History. Retrieved 10 September 2021, from

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