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Ornery

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Ornery

Postby Dr. Goodword » Fri Aug 22, 2014 11:05 pm

• ornery •


Pronunciation: or-nêr-ee • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Contrary, cantankerous, mean, disagreeable.

Notes: This odd little word sounds awfully American but, in fact, it came to us from 17th century England. That is long enough for it to have picked up a noun, orneriness, but not an adverb. Despite its longevity, it is still considered slang, so save it for humorous occasions.

In Play: Ornery is an ordinary word you are liable to hear frequently around the house in some regions: "Now, don't get ornery. Mow the lawn before the game starts; otherwise, you know it won't be done." We've all heard this low-brow word and, if I'm not mistaken, most of us occasionally use it in constructions like this: "Don't even ask Bob Wire. He is in one of his ornery moods and wouldn't give you air in a jug right now."

Word History: Words are like kids: they get into trouble easily. This word has been naughty enough to have done itself quite a bit of damage. It started out as the ordinary word ordinary, but then the Americans reduced the upper-class British pronunciation of the word (ord'n'ry) to ornery, which they took as a discrete word. Ordinary came to us via French from Latin ordinarius "in order, usual, regular", an adjective based on ordo, ordinis "row, line, series". The same deep root, Proto-Indo-European ar- "fit together, join", also underlies arm, a word borrowed from Latin armus "joint, shoulder". In Greek it emerged in harmon "joint, shoulder", at the root of harmonia "fitting together, harmony", which we borrowed as harmony. Such a long journey to end up with such a mean meaning.
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Re: Ornery

Postby misterdoe » Fri Aug 22, 2014 11:52 pm

I remember making my best friend crack up laughing back in high school (30+ years ago) when I described my childhood sweetheart as ornery. She wasn't a mean person by any stretch but she could come across as mean to someone who didn't know her. And she was definitely contrary.
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Re: Ornery

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat Aug 23, 2014 12:15 pm

Neat.
I get images of Tom Sawyer and Aunt Polly.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: Ornery

Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Aug 30, 2014 7:44 am

At times ornery is the only word that will do. What else would one call a recalcitrant child? Saying recalcitrant would make no impression on the child or, for that matter, upon the adult that is being the object of her/his recalcitrance.
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.
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Re: Ornery

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat Aug 30, 2014 11:52 am

I get the same image with 'incorrigible'.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: Ornery

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat Aug 30, 2014 12:30 pm

And there was a song about a lady, whom everyone
gossiped about, who showed up at the local PTA
and gave them the 'dickens'. Can't remember much about
it other than that.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: Ornery

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat Aug 30, 2014 1:59 pm

Around here and to the west of here, the word is often pronounced AHN-ry.
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Re: Ornery

Postby Philip Hudson » Mon Sep 01, 2014 2:29 pm

Right, Perry, it is pronounced AHN-ry here in the hinterlands. Luke, that was Jeannie C. Riley who gave the "dickens" to the Harper Valley P.T.A.:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ivUOnnstpg
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