Monday, September 29, 2008

OK More Language.

This concerns the use and/or alternate meanings of some words that I grew up with. At least one of these words I never hear anybody use anymore, except back home, where it's fairly common. So we'll start with that one.

And that word is nary. Nary is a great little word, its just a negation. It can mean not one, not any, none, nothing, things along those lines.

"I brought home these books but I aint read nary one"
"He brought his camera, but didnt take nary picture".
"Not nary one of 'ems any 'count".

It's perfectly acceptable to add 'a' after nary, though it can change the meaning slightly: "He didnt git nary a dime from me".

English has this stupid stupid rule that a double negative is somehow logically a positive. That does not pertain to nary - it just makes it stronger. I know for a fact that Russian grammar allows for, indeed encourages double negatives, and "not nary one of 'em" is confused about it. I wonder if that rule was invented by some aristocrat who thought English grammar should conform to the rules of mathematics, as well as Latin.

Law: law is a perfectly common word in English, but back home (and other places too), it has the meaning of police or sheriff.

"The law dont never come down to these parts".
"Best be careful, the law'll be after ya".
"The law knocked on the front door and he went out the back".

I've heard law used this way in other places, but it's very common back home. (Eastern Kentucky)

Country: another perfectly common word in English, but frequently back home it has a much smaller scope.

If someone were to say, "The law got after him and I reckon he left the country", that does not mean this particular person packed his bags and headed to Havana. He just might have headed out to another part of the county. He might hiding out in his Uncle's house up the holler somewhere. When "country" is used this way, it just means they don't know where he is. He isnt home.

Here's another usage: "That's mighty rough country". In this instance they're most likely talking about topographical features.

"I aint familiar with this country", simply means the speaker is somewhere he's never been before.

So, nary, law & country.

Pop quiz: What's "They aint nary law in this country" mean? (in this instance, if you put the 'a' after nary, that would really change the meaning. "nary law" and "nary a law" are two different things.


TrishaRitchieNC said...

"Don't pay him no never mind" - now is that a double negative or two double negatives - means "Don't pay attention to him".

Ms. O. D. said...

that's interesting about the double negative! i think english is the only one that does that... it's so confusing.

i've been trying to figure out the pop quiz this past hour... the "They" is confusing me.

does it mean: "they are not policemen,"


"They dont have the authority or jurisdiction in this part of the land" ?


A Valdese Blogger said...

trisharitchienc: Yep. Pay me no never mind while I think of a sufficently witty reply.

ms. o. d.: I threw the "they" in there without explaining uses of they. Sorry about that. They, used in that sentence, is interchangable with "There". I've heard "they" used this way by a wide variety of disparate people, from the streets of Baltimore to back in the hills of Kentucky. If you listen to Wierd Al Yakovich's "Money For Nothing/Beverly Hillbilles" he gives a perfect example of how it's used: well they came a bubblin' crude. Anyway, the sentence simply means that the police or sheriff are not anywhere around, and no one knows where they are. They might be in a different part of the county at that moment. In this instance, "They" = "There".