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Trailer trash is a derogatory North American English term for poor people living in a trailer or a mobile home. It is particularly used to denigrate white people living in such circumstances and can be considered to fall within the category of racial/ethnic slurs.
In the mid-20th century, poor whites who could not afford to buy suburban-style tract housing began to purchase mobile homes, which were not only cheaper, but which could be easily relocated if work in one location ran out. These – sometimes by choice and sometimes through local zoning laws – gathered in trailer parks, and the people who lived in them became known as "trailer trash" with the term dating to at least 1952. Despite many of them having jobs, albeit sometimes itinerant ones, the character flaws that had been perceived in poor white trash in the past were transferred to trailer trash, and trailer camps or parks were seen as being inhabited by retired persons, migrant workers, and, generally, the poor. By 1968, a survey found that only 13% of those who owned and lived in mobile homes had white collar jobs.
Trailers got their start in the 1930s, and their use proliferated during the housing shortage of World War II, when the Federal government used as many as 30,000 of them to house defense workers, soldiers and sailors throughout the country, but especially around areas with a large military or defense presence, such as Mobile, Alabama and Pascagoula, Mississippi. In her book Journey Through Chaos, reporter Agnes Meyer of The Washington Post travelled throughout the country, reporting on the condition of the "neglected rural areas", and described the people who lived in the trailers, tents and shacks in such areas as malnourished, unable to read or write, and generally ragged. The workers who came to Mobile and Pascagoula to work in the shipyards there were from the backwoods of the South, "subnormal swamp and mountain folk" whom the locals described as "vermin"; elsewhere, they were called "squatters". They were accused of having loose morals, high illegitimacy and crime rates and of allowing prostitution to thrive in their "Hillbilly Havens" and letting their children go undisciplined, causing high juvenile delinquency rates. The trailers themselves – sometimes purchased second- or third-hand – were often unsightly, unsanitary and dilapidated, causing communities to zone them away from the more desirable neighborhoods, which meant away from schools, stores, and other necessary facilities, often literally on the other sides of the railroad tracks.
In art, entertainment, and media
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Million Dollar Baby's "Maggie Fitzgerald" character came from such a family that she was struggling to get away from.
Colt Ford's song "No Trash in My Trailer" (2009) tells of a redneck-type male who throws his girlfriend out of his mobile home, the message being "there ain't no trash in my trailer, since the day I threw you outta here."
Lana Del Rey's persona is portrayed as a "cheap trailer trash and everyone knows it" in the song "Boarding School". Trailer park references also appear on numerous other songs, including "Hundred Dollar Bill", "Yayo" and "Trash Magic".
- Spears, Richard A. (1 Oct 2005). McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0071461078.
the poorest of people who live in run-down house trailers in bad neighborhoods. (Used with singular or plural force. Rude and derogatory.) : She's just trailer trash. Probably doesn't even own shoes.
- Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers.
poor people living in trailer parks in the US
- "Dictionary.com's 21st Century Lexicon". Dictionary.com, LLC.
a poor, lower-class white person, esp. one living in a mobile home with trash in the vicinityMissing or empty
- Henderson, Anita (Spring 2003). "What's in a Slur?". American Speech. 78 (1): 52–74. doi:10.1215/00031283-78-1-52. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
- Harold H. Martin, “Don't Call Them Trailer Trash,” The Saturday Evening Post, August 2, 1952, Vol. 225, No. 5.
- Isenberg, Nancy (2016) White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America New York: Penguin. pp.240-47 ISBN 978-0-14-312967-7
- Black, R. (2004). Trailer Trash Cookin'. Hearts 'N Tummies Cookbook Company. ISBN 978-1-57166-320-7.
- The dictionary definition of Trailer trash at Wiktionary