Yokel is a derogatory term referring to the stereotype of unsophisticated country people.
In the United States, it is used to describe someone living in rural areas. Synonyms for yokel include country bumpkin, hayseed, chawbacon, rube, redneck, hillbilly, hick, and derk-derk.
In the UK, yokels are traditionally depicted as wearing the old West Country/farmhand's dress of straw hat and white smock, chewing or sucking a piece of straw and carrying a pitchfork or rake, listening to "Scrumpy and Western" music. Yokels are portrayed as living in rural areas of Britain such as the West Country, East Anglia, the Yorkshire Dales, the Scottish Highlands and Wales. British yokels speak with country dialects from various parts of Britain.
Yokels are depicted as straightforward, simple and naive, and they are easily deceived as they fail to see through false pretenses. They are also depicted as talking about bucolic topics like cows, sheep, goats, wheat, alfalfa, fields, crops, tractors, and buxom wenches to the exclusion of all else. They don't seem to be aware of, or at least show interest in, the world outside their own surroundings.
The development of television brought many previously isolated communities into mainstream British culture in the 1950's and 1960's. The Internet continues this integration, further eroding the town/country divide. In the 21st century British country folk are less frequently seen as yokels. In British TV Show The Two Ronnies, it was asserted that despite political correctness, it is possible to poke fun at yokels as no one sees oneself as being one.
Modern use of the term has been seen in the largely popular game Grand Theft Auto IV. The character Vlad Glebov refers to Niko and Roman Bellic as yokels at the beginning of the game to show their inferiority as poor Serbian immigrants who have yet to acclimate to the fast and sophisticated American culture.
In Scotland, those from the Highlands and Islands, Moray, Aberdeenshire, and other rural areas are often referred to by urban or lowland Scots as teuchters.
Origins of "hick"
According to the Oxford English Dictionary the term is a "by-form" of the personal name Richard (like Dick) and Hob (like Bob) for Robert. Although the English word "hick" is of recent vintage, distinctions between urban and rural dwellers are ancient.
According to a popular etymology, hick derives from the nickname "Old Hickory" for Andrew Jackson, one of the first Presidents of the United States to come from rural hard-scrabble roots. This nickname suggested that Jackson was tough and enduring like an old Hickory tree. Jackson was particularly admired by the residents of remote and mountainous areas of the United States, people who would come to be known as "hicks."
Though not a term explicitly denoting lower class, some argue that the term degrades impoverished rural people and that "hicks" continue as one of the few groups that can be ridiculed and stereotyped with impunity. In "The Redneck Manifesto," Jim Goad argues that this stereotype has largely served to blind the general population to the economic exploitation of rural areas, specifically in Appalachia, the South, and parts of the Midwest.
Famous fictional yokels
The Clampetts, in The Beverly Hillbillies TV series
The Hazzard County residents, of The Dukes of Hazzard TV series and the related film Moonrunners (1975)
The hillbilly residents of Dogpatch, in the Li'l Abner comic strip
The Hooterville residents, in the sister TV series Green Acres and Petticoat Junction
Rose Nylund, portrayed by Betty White, one of the four lead characters from The Golden Girls TV series, who was from the midwestern town of St. Olaf, Minnesota and often told stories from her time living in St. Olaf
Cletus Spuckler, the Slack-Jawed Yokel, a character from The Simpsons animated TV series
Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett, who portray yokels in BBC1 sketch show The Two Ronnies
The nurse in musical South Pacific, who describes herself as a "hick" from Little Rock, Arkansas
Willie Stark in the 1946 novel All the King's Men, who often uses the word hick in his speeches to describe the poor voters and himself, for being fooled by the elite. He calls upon citizens to vote for him, promising he will be the voice of the hicks.
Niko Bellic the main character in GTA IV is called a 'yokel' on more than one occasion by one of his employers 'Vlad Glebov'.