Have you heard this Southern colloquialism? Although it’s not very common anymore, some people in the Southeast (especially older folks) will refer to this animal as a “polecat.” My grandmother always used the term not just for skunks, but anyone and anything that she found malodorous!
So where does this term come from? In reality, a polecat isn’t a skunk, but a wild ferret native to Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa. Polecats emit a musky odor when threatened, though it’s not quite as strong as they of a skunk.
Because skunks don’t live in Europe, the first English speakers in the Southeast didn’t know what they were and mistook them for polecats. The term persists, particularly in rural areas.