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ORNERY

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ORNERY

Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Feb 28, 2006 12:39 am

• ornery •

Pronunciation: or-nêr-ee • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Contrary, cantankerous, mean, disagreeable.

Notes: Today's word sound awfully American but, in fact, it has been around since the 17th century (see Word History). 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: We have all heard this word; it isn't unusual except for its origin: "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." It is an ordinary word, something you are likely to hear around the house all the time: "Now, don't be ornery; mow the lawn before the game starts; otherwise, you know it won't be done."

Word History: Words are like kids in that they can get in trouble easily and today's Good if a bit naughty Word is a perfect example. It started out as the ordinary word, ordinary, but then, by repeated mispronunciation, turned sour in both sound and meaning. Ordinary came via French from Latin ordinarius "in order, usual, regular", an adjective based on ordo, ordin- "order". The same deep root, Proto-Indo-European *ar- "fit together, join", also underlies arm from Latin armus "upper arm". In Greek it emerged in harmos "joint, shoulder", the basis of harmonia "fitting together, harmony", which we borrowed as harmony. What a long journey to end up with so mean a meaning.
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Postby Apoclima » Tue Feb 28, 2006 6:21 am

"Life is ordinary and ordinary is ornery, therefore, life is onery."

-from "The Quoditien Trudge Of Human Feet" by Peter Denkenbaum

Apo
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Postby gailr » Tue Feb 28, 2006 9:29 pm

Where I grew up (US midwest) this came out more like on-ree, as in "Man! Grandma was a particularly onrey cuss this evening!"

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Postby Apoclima » Wed Mar 01, 2006 1:58 am

Exactly my experience, gailr, -onry-, accent on the first syllable, "on-" like the preposition "on" and "-ry" like the "re-" in repair, although them what could read a bit might every now and then mispronounce it as ornery, like some book-learned word or like school marm.

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Postby tcward » Wed Mar 01, 2006 12:37 pm

This word always reminds me of the Appalachian carol, "I Wonder As I Wander"...

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.
For poor orn'ry people like you and like I...
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.


Even as an adult, I don't know if that word is supposed to be ordinary or ornery... But I usually decide it's all the same to the message of the song and just pick one. ;)

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