[Ads-l] _onry_ [< ornery < ordinary] "of man or beast: mean, nasty, angry, cruel, crude, unpleasant, dangerous, " etc..

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Aug 15 20:00:23 UTC 2016

Although _onry_ is, very likely, derived, ultimately, from _ordinary_
through _ornery_, not to recognize it as a lexical item independent of them
is like refusing to recognize _bust_ as a different lexical item from
_burst_ or refusing to recognize _cum_ as a different lexical item from
_come_ or refusing to recognize _ornery_ as a different lexical item from

Indeed, refusing to admit the distinction is straight-up onry.

I've tried to persuade myself that _onry_ "aahnrih"  and "ornery" are the
same word since I first heard "ornery" used by George Francis "Gabby" Hayes
in the Western movies of the horse-opera era. All that would have been
necessary to persuade me that such was the case would have been the use of
_onry_ by any random white speaker or the use of _ornery_ by some random
black speaker.

That has never happened.

I offer perhaps weak evidence that, among black speakers, the connection
between _onry_ and _ornery_ had been lost by the turn of the last century.

As I was Googling to see whether _onry_ - or, perhaps, _awnry_, since
"onry" could rhyme with "only" - I came across the following:

The Black Cat Club: Negro Humor & Folk-lore - Page 18-19
James David Corrothers - 1902 - ‎Read - ‎More editions
The club has no honorary members, but, by virtue of its constitution, it is
allowed to have 999. Contrary to general usage, however, these members will
not be chosen because of their brilliance or the honor that they are
expected to reflect upon the club; nor will they be called honorary members
at all. They will be denominated 'onry members,' and will be chosen because
they are considered too 'onry' to belong to the club---"

in which _onry_ is punned with _honorary_ and not with _ornery_ or
_ordinary_. But the fact that the author didn't do that is not evidence
that he couldn't have done that or wouldn't have done that - because the
semantic connection had been lost - if he had felt like it.
All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

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

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