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

Neal Whitman nwhitman at AMERITECH.NET
Tue Aug 16 14:56:15 UTC 2016

A white girl on my high-school debate team in Houston, Texas, pronounced 
"ornery" as "onry". That was the first time I'd heard anyone do that, 
and I just thought it was a pronunciation difficulty on her part. I also 
knew she intended <ornery>, because she was reading it off a page.

On 8/15/2016 4:00 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
> 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
> _ordinary_.
> 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
>   https://books.google.com/books?id=VQ9AAAAAYAAJ
> 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.

Dr. Neal Whitman
Lecturer, ESL Composition
School of Teaching and Learning
College of Education and Human Ecology
Arps Hall
1945 North High Street
whitman.11 at osu.edu
(614) 260-1622

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

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