Fwd: "nary a "

Chris F Waigl chris at LASCRIBE.NET
Tue May 29 22:31:12 UTC 2007

Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:
> as i say, not in the OED (and hard to search for via google).  i'm
> away from my DARE -- does it have an entry for "ary"?  anyone have
> any information on this item?

With Google's help, I can find it in quite a few American writers'
(eye-)dialect passages:

Jack London
Burning Daylight

"... Ain't I right, Campbell? Ain't I right, Mac? Daylight's one of the
old guard, one of the real sour-doughs. And in them days they wa'n't ary
a steamboat or ary a trading-post, and we cusses had to live offen
salmon-bellies and rabbit-tracks."

"... You never hear ary squeal out of them when they've got the other
fellow down and are gouging him. ..."

"The little woman's right. Only one bed at a time. One hundred and forty
hair bridles, and nothing doing with ary one of them. ..."

"Dede, if I tell you, flat and straight, that I'm going up to live on
that ranch at Glen Ellen, that I ain't taking a cent with me, that I'm
going to scratch for every bite I eat, and that I ain't going to play
ary a card at the business game again, will you come along with me?"
You see, ma'am, he went all to fat. And there ain't ary ounce of fat on me.

Jack London
White Fang: Part I: The She-Wolf

Bill shoved his cup aside. "I'll be ding-dong-danged if I do. I said I
wouldn't if ary dog turned up missin', an' I won't."

(This is the only one in London in a positive polarity context.)

James Whitcomb Riley

The idy! Wadin round here over shoe-mouth deep in woe,
When they's a graded 'pike o' joy and sunshine don't you know!
When evening strikes the pastur', cows'll pull out fer the bars,
And skittish-like from out the night'll prance the happy stars.
And so when my time comes to die, and I've got ary friend
'At wants expressed my last request-- I'll mebby, rickommend
To drive slow, ef they haf to, goin' 'long the out'ard track,
But I'll smile and say, "You speed 'em
                       When the

And finally, a true profusion of them in:

Harold Bell Wright
The Re-Creation of Brian Kent

And there might
have been a faint touch of softness, now, in the querulous monotone
as Judy said: "I can't see as how hit could be ary bigger. Hain't ary
reason, as I kin see, why hit should be ary bigger if hit could. Lord
knows there's 'nough of hit as 't is; rough 'nough, too, as you-all 'd
sure know if you-all had ter trapse over them there hills all yer life
like I've had ter."


"You-all come dad burned near not bein' ary bit alive," returned the


"You-all are at Auntie Sue's place," said Judy; "an' there sure ain't no
chance for you-all ter git ary licker here. Where'd you-all come from,
anyhow? How'd you-all git here 'thout no oars ner paddle ner nothin'?
Where was you-all aimin' ter go?"


"That there is the house," said Judy, pointing. "But I don't reckon as
how you-all kin git ary licker there."


"I found him in er John-boat what done come ashore last night, down
there in the eddy," Judy explained to Auntie Sue. To the man, she said:
"This here is Auntie Sue, mister; but, I don't reckon as how she's got
ary licker for you."


To which Judy retorted: "He's just triflin' an' ornery an' no 'count,
that's what he is, or he sure wouldn't been a-floatin' 'round in that
there old John-boat 'thout ary gun, or fishin' lines, or hat even, ter
say nothin' of that there whisky bottle bein' plumb empty."


"You-all ain't a-needin' ter do hit but onct, neither. Onct is sure a
heap plenty for that there big Sheriff man. Just look what he did ter
my pap! He's jailed pap seven times, that I kin rec'lect. God-A'mighty
knows how many times he ketched him 'fore I was borned. An' pap, he
didn't do so mighty much ary time, neither."


Jap Taylor interrupted with, "I didn't sign ary paper, an'--"


"I didn't sign ary paper," repeated Judy's father, with sullen
stubbornness. "An' what's more, I sure ain't a-goin' ter. I 'lows as how
she'll just go home an' work for me, like she ort, 'stead of livin' with
that there old-maid schoolma'am. I'm her paw, I am, an' I reckon I got


"You-all knows dad burned well what I'm a-meanin'!" she retorted, with
increasing anger. "I'm a-meanin' that you-all are plumb lovin' that
there Betty Jo gal,--that's what I'm a-meanin'!--an' you-all sure ain't
got ary right for ter go an' do sich a thing, nohow!"


No, sir; I ain't never fooled myself ary bit like that, Mr. Burns.


Hit would smash an'
grind an' tear an' hammer that there fine, straight body of hers
'til hit was all broken an' twisted an' crooked a heap worse'n what I
be,--that's what hit would do; an' hit would scratch an' cut an' beat up
that pretty face an' mess up her pretty hair an' choke her an' smother
her 'til she was all blue-black an' muddy, an' her eyes was red an'
starin', an' she was nothin' but just an ugly lump of dirt; an' hit
wouldn't even leave her her fine clothes neither,--the Elbow Rock water
wouldn't,--hit'd just naturally tear 'em off her, an' leave her 'thout
ary thing what's makin' you love her like you're a-doin'!


"You'd sure best not let her come back, sir! 'Fore God, I
ain't a-wantin' ter do hit, but hit seems like I can't help myself; I
can't sleep for wantin' ter fix hit so,--so's you just couldn't want
ter have her no more'n you're a-wantin' me. I--I--sure ain't a-foolin'
myself none, not ary bit, a-thinkin' you-all could ever git ter
likin' sich as me; but, I can't help sort of dreamin' 'bout hit an'
a-pretendin', an'--an' all the while I'm a-knowin', inside er me like,
that there ain't nobody,--not Auntie Sue, nor this here Betty Jo, nor
that there other woman, nor anybody,--what kin care for you like I'm
a-carin',--they just naturally couldn't care like me; 'cause--'cause,
you see, sir, I ain't got nobody else,--ain't no man but you ever even
been decent ter me. I sure ain't got nobody else--"


"I done opened the doors ter their rooms,
an' listened, an' shet 'em again 'thout ary one of 'em a-movin' even.
I'll fix the winder, now, an' then we kin make a light."


"That there nigger said as how Missus Kent was a-wantin' ter
see me. Be ary one of youuns sure 'nough Missus Kent?"

(These are all inside speech even if I haven't always reconstructed the quotation marks.)

Chris Waigl

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

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