Wilson Gray hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET
Sun Jun 6 03:25:16 UTC 2004

On Jun 5, 2004, at 8:54 PM, Mullins, Bill wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Mullins, Bill" <Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL>
> Subject:      kyarn
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> --------
>> In my childhood in
>> East Texas, a word that sounded like "kyahn" was used by my parents
>> and
>> grandparents with a meaning something like "an otherwise-unidentified
>> substance with a disgusting odor," since it occurred only in sentences
>> like "That smells/stinks like/as bad as kyahn." I've never heard
>> "kyahn" used by *anyone* outside of my immediate family. Nevertheless,
>> about 35 years later, while thumbing through a book on the vocabulary
>> of *Ozark* English, what before my wondering eyes should appear but
>> the
>> citation, "kyahn. n. carrion." It blew my mind, to say the least.
>> Unfortunately, I'm unable to recall the title or the author of the
>> lexicon.
> My wife's maternal grandmother is in her 80's, and grew up/lives in
> south Georgia (Douglas, Nicholls).  My wife picked up from her side
> of the family "kyarn", meaning carrion (note the "r").  The best
> description
> is kyarn is what a dog will roll in just before it
> comes inside and rubs against you.  The stinkier, the better.

Now that you've brought it to my attention, it could well have been the
"kyarn" spelling that I saw in the lexicon. My "knowledge" of English
of the Ozark/Appalachian type has been gained primarily from comic
strips like "Li'l Abner" and "[Barney Google and] Snuffy Smith," and
from TV shows like Jerry Springer. Interestingly, while in the Army, I
had a (white) Appalachian-speaking buddy for whom "yon" as an adjective
was a living part of his vocabulary. He could say things like, "Let's
go have a beer in yon bar." This was in 1961. Down home in East Texas,
we blacks used "yon" only adverbially in exclamations like "Yon he go!"
Otherwise, we used "yonder" and even then still only adverbially: "He
use to live (over) yonder; look (over) yonder!; they went (over)
yonder/went yonder (way)."

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