Quick meaning alive

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Jan 3 15:12:40 UTC 2010

At 2:06 PM +0000 1/3/10, ronbutters at aol.com wrote:
>Yesterday's crossword used "coney" as a synonym for 'rabbit'. It
>survives (I assume) in "Coney Island" (but with few people for whom
>the first word is more than an empty meaning). It lives on also for
>scholars and maybe dialectologists. So I'd call it rare or scholarly
>or specialized, but not obsolete or merely archaic. Ditto "quick" =

"Coney" occurs in a verse of "Big-Eye(d) Rabbit", an Appalachian folk
song I have on my iTunes in two slightly different versions.  June
Maugery sings what I assume is the traditional version, although I'm
a bit puzzled by the gender reassignment surgery between lines 3 and

Coney on the island
It's coney on the run
Watch that rabbit, she's so scared
Shoot him with my gun, gun
Shoot him with my gun

John and Heidi Cerrigione favor this relatively non-violent
counterpart, also attested elsewhere on the web:

Coney on the island
Coney on the run
See that rabbit, she's so fast
Missed her with my gun, gun
Missed her with my gun

In both versions, "coney" is rhymed with "phoney" (as in the
amusement park) rather than with "money, honey".  As the OED puts it
with some delicacy in its _cony_ entry:

The historical pronunciation is with (^); common spellings from 16th
to 18th c. were cunnie, cunney, cunny, and the word regularly rimed
with honey, money, as indicated also by the spelling coney; but
during the 19th c. the pronunciation with long o has gradually crept
   This pronunciation is largely due to the obsolescence of the word
in general use, while it occurred in the Bible, and esp. in the
Psalms, as the name of a foreign animal (sense 3); the oral tradition
being broken, readers guessed at the word from the spelling. It is
possible, however, that the desire to avoid certain vulgar
associations with the word in the cunny form, may have contributed to
the preference for a different pronunciation in reading the
Scriptures. Walker knew only the cunny pronunciation; Smart (1836)
says 'it is familiarly pronounced cunny', but co:ny is 'proper for
solemn reading'.

(Presumably the impropriety of the corresponding Fr. word _connil_
for "solemn reading", given the same "vulgar associations", was
similarly responsible for that word having been displaced by "lapin".)


>------Original Message------
>From: Benjamin Zimmer
>Sender: ADS-L
>To: ADS-L
>ReplyTo: ADS-L
>Subject: Re: [ADS-L] Quick meaning alive
>Sent: Jan 2, 2010 5:42 PM
>On Sat, Jan 2, 2010 at 3:35 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
>>  IMO, _quickening_ must still be quick (in the archaic sense) for a
>>  fairly large percentage of speakers, given that there was a movie
>>  entitled "The Quickening." OTOH, I wouldn't be surprised to discover
>>  that, for the majority of those who went to see the movie, its title
>>  had no referent other than as the title of a movie.
>When the 1995 Sam Raimi western "The Quick and the Dead" came out, I
>don't the moviemakers were counting on audiences knowing about the
>Athanasian Creed. In fact, one of the movie's taglines uses the modern
>sense of "quick", while another alludes to it:
>"Think you're quick enough?"
>"In this town, you're either one or the other."
>--Ben Zimmer
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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