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Origins of the term
The term Rhodie was first used by British army and civil service personnel in Rhodesia (the pre-independence name for Zimbabwe) during the period immediately before the country's independence. The term was initially applied to all white Rhodesians. After independence, the term began to be applied increasingly to those Rhodesians who were nostalgic for the past. The nostalgia a Rhodie feels relates particularly to the UDI era (1965 to 1979) during which time the country's white population, led by the government of Ian Smith, declared independence from Britain while denying political aspirations to the majority black population. The UDI regime in Rhodesia sought to perpetuate a semi-colonial system in which whites controlled the political system. The UDI project ended in a civil war fought between the white government and black insurgents.
Current usage of the term
Implications of racism and violence
Usage of the term Rhodie changed further in post-independence Zimbabwe. It began to be applied to a white Zimbabwean of a particular kind. An image published in The Sunday Times Magazine in 1984 showed a poster near Harare reading "Private Party Invitation Only No Drugs No Rhodies No Racists No Troublemakers Allowed on These Premises".
A Rhodie is invariably a white person and their characteristics are typically assumed to be:
- a belief in the superiority of whites over blacks
- a tendency to indulge in alcohol
- an inclination towards occasional violence.
A Rhodie bar is an establishment frequented by Rhodies and is often decorated with memorabilia of the UDI era and the Rhodesian Bush War. Such establishments, in pubs, restaurants and hotels, can be found in most Zimbabwean towns and there are several in South African towns such as Cape Town where concentrations of Rhodesian expatriates live. There is at least one claimed Rhodie bar in England.
Implications of lower-class
The term Rhodie can also carry social connotations. During the period after independence, about two thirds of Zimbabwe's white population left the country. Those remaining tended to fall into two distinct categories. Firstly, there were individuals of high social status possessing professional skills and property which would enable them to survive in the new order. Secondly, there were individuals of low social status lacking the skills or qualities needed to emigrate. This last group were the main losers from independence and many of them became Rhodies.
The term Rhodie is used throughout the English-speaking world. It tends to be used in Commonwealth countries as the equivalent of the American term redneck. It is occasionally applied to a person with no Zimbabwean connections, carrying connotations of a conservative world view and boorish behaviour.
Use as endearment
Expatriate Rhodesians outside Zimbabwe often describe each other affectionately as Rhodies. These people do not generally exhibit the characteristics indicated above.
Short for Rhodesian Ridgeback
Use as a nickname
Short for the surname Rhoden, Rhodes, and Rhode. Used as a term of endearment without racial implications.
Contrary term Zimbo
The term Zimbo is nowadays applied to a white Zimbabwean with a more racially equal outlook. A Rhodie will often describe a Zimbo as a kaffir boetie (meaning brother of a black person) because of the Zimbo view that blacks are equal to whites. The word kaffir is derived from Arabic where its original meaning was a "heathen", or a non-believer in an Abrahamic religion (where as, an infidel is a non-believer in Allah). It has been used as an extremely derogatory slur to describe sub-Saharan Africans.
- Hoggart, Simon (9 February 1980). "Ironing the lawn in Salisbury, Rhodesia". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 August 2013. "Even the British squaddies look with faint contempt on the Rhodesians (or 'Rhodies' as they sometimes call them; military slang mushrooms overnight)."
- Unendoro, Benedict (16 August 2007). "ZIMBABWE: Poor whites hit hard times". IWPR (The Shebeen). Archived from the original on 20 February 2008. Retrieved 9 August 2013. "'Rhodies' – as whites who long for the old pre-Zimbabwe days of white-ruled Rhodesia are known – called such white people '******boeties' [****** lovers] and despised them."
- Longworth, Peter (11 September 2004). "Dark hearts". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 August 2013. "For the leftovers of Ian Smith's killing machine who people Fuller's new book, the past is all there is. Yesterday's world had rules of engagement. Remaindered from the Rhodesian war, all they have now is their ghosts inadequately repressed by extreme religion, alcohol, purple pills or a penchant for tearing down bars. Don't believe these guys don't exist. Spot them at the end of a Harare Rhodie bar or even worse stumbling towards you across the terrace of a bush hotel and it's time to grab the bill." Review: Scribbling the Cat by Alexandra Fuller.
- Godwin, Peter (25 March 1984). "Whose Kith and Kin Now?". The Sunday Times Magazine. Archived from the original on 5 August 2004. Retrieved 9 August 2013. "When Prince Charles visits Zimbabwe this weekend he will find a nation still divided four years after independence. But now the divisions run deepest within the dwindling white community between young permissive trendies and fervent 'born-again' evangelists, between those who prefer to be African rather than European and those who can't wait for a stamp on their emigration applications."
- "Welcome to The Crown Hotel". Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- "Bar Menu". Crown Hotel. Archived from the original on 3 April 2007. Retrieved 9 August 2013.