When most people in New Jersey use the word "Piney," it's usually not in complimentary terms. Some people in the central and northern part of the state consider anyone living in South Jersey a Piney. The truth is that there are a group of people who consider themselves Pineys and are quite proud of their heritage and their image.

If you look up the definition of a Jersey Piney, you'll find this: Piney is a historically derogatory term for people from the New Jersey Pine Barrens, although the term is now accepted as a proper identifier. Often poor, pineys were forced to make a living in any way possible. They collected and sold sphagnum moss or pine cones, hunted, fished and lived off of the land.

That's just one example of the misconception of who these folks are. They weren't "forced" to make a living in any way possible. They were and are resourceful enough to make a living any way possible. They're an extremely independent, down to earth, proud group of people who you'd be lucky to run into in or near the Pinelands, especially if you needed any help. I've lived on the edge of the Pinelands for the past 35 years and anytime I've had an encounter with a so-called Piney, it was always positive.

The History Press
The History Press

William J. Lewis of New Egypt is a proud Piney who has written book called "New Jersey's Lost Piney Culture". Here's quick excerpt from the book:

"I have to admit I was pretty disturbed by a person being interviewed when they answered a question on how to describe what a Piney is. This reinforced the need for this book to be written and, to a degree, seek an apology from those in positions of power who had exploited the Pineys in the past. Yes, it was different times, but Piney families still to this day live with the negative stereotypes. No one should tell you that it’s wrong to wear the title Piney. No matter what type of Piney you are, we are all part of the same Piney tribe."

Every state has its nicknames for people from a particular part of that state. The more rural, the more derogatory the term is intended to be. But the sweet irony of most of these situations, including Pineys here in New Jersey, is that it's no insult to them. They're among the most well-adjusted, grounded, decent, happy people you'll find anywhere. It's a part of our state's culture and history worth knowing about. Pick up the book and find out what a "Piney" really is.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Dennis Malloy. Any opinions expressed are Dennis's own.

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