[Ads-l] stray maverick notes

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Fri Jul 31 14:05:15 UTC 2015

The OED's "maverick" entry is good; here, minor remarks (rebranding?) only. The etymology from Texas landowner Samuel A. Maverick is surely more likely that the proposal that a 17th-century Sam Maverick in Boston was the source and that it was also applied in Maine, before the Texas use, for "an unmarked log in a Maine river drive." The minority view of John Gould in Maine Lingo (1975) not only lacks evidence, as far as I know, but apparently draws on the apparently secondary sense (OED "...an individualist"), as if the original, for the Boston Maverick, called by Gould (not by early colonists) an "oddball."

OED's first citation is indirect: "1867   in J. G. McCoy Hist. Sketches Cattle Trade (1940) 83..." McCoy's 1874 book (available at HathiTrust) p. 9 actually has "Mauvrics" (a spelling, along with mauvrik, not in OED) and attributes it to a French cattle owner. The 1940 footnote by Ralph P. Bieber quotes an 1867 San Antonio newspaper, without further specification. I didn't confirm that (likely accurate) quotation, but did see two other 1867 San Antonio uses. Perhaps interestingly, much etymological speculation was already noted in that year. By that time S. A. Maverick was out of the cattle business, according to his son George in an 1889 letter, responding to an inquiry. It is reprinted in Memoirs of Mary A. Maverick [Sam's Wife] (1921) p. 123-4, introduced with "What a pity to contradict The Century Dictionary, but...." Because Sam was already out of the cattle business by 1867 (he sold his herd "About the year 1856"), and etymological speculation was noted in 1867, an antedating would not surprise. (I leave aside speculations on Sam's reasons for supposedly not branding--which he, his employees, did, though not always--by Wm. Safire and others.)

San Antonio Express, "Texas the Best State After All" 08-09-1867 p. 2 includes: branding "mavericks."
The Sept. 14 Chicago Republican p. 3 ran a story on "Mavericks," attributing it to a German in Texas. (Sam wasn't German; that may be a misreading of the story told above (08-09), which included a German.
San Antonio Express responded to "A Northern Correspondent on Texas Cattle Raising" p. 2 Sept 28 1867:
....He gives the following account of the "Mavericks" which our old friend Maverick will enjoy:...[After the Chicago quotation:] We have heard many explanations of the term "Mavericks," but we all know it has something to do with our old friend and fellow-citizen, Samuel Maverick....he neglected to brand or mark them....Mr. M. has ceased to stock raise...."

Stephen Goranson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list