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Sunday, July 26, 2020

Answers to the Kerr County Pioneer Vocabulary Test

Horse breaking, Kerr County, over a hundred years ago.
Click on any image to enlarge
Zelma Hardy
Last week, for fun, I gave a little vocabulary test of words used in Kerr County by its earliest pioneers. Everyday language changes all of the time, but it was interesting to me to learn how much it’s changed since Kerr County was formed in 1856.
The list of words came from a master’s thesis written by Zelma Hardy in 1950. Mrs. Hardy was a life-long educator, teaching in many schools, including Tivy High School, and later at what is now Schreiner University. A former student told me this week that Hardy was a good teacher – firm, but fair.
Hardy also was a political pioneer in the city of Kerrville: she was the first woman to serve as mayor of the city.
Here is last week’s vocabulary test, with the definitions provided:

1. Antigodlin (diagonal, or diagonally): (as in) “He took an antigodlin route because he was in a hurry.” (To cross a street diagonally from opposite corners.)
2. Battercake (a pancake): “The smell of battercakes made his mouth water.”
3. Blinky (sour): “His nose told him the milk was blinky.”
4. Button Willow (a sycamore tree): “They argued whether the tree was a button willow or an alamo.” (Alamo was also a common name for sycamore trees in Kerr County.)
5. Clumb (past tense of climb): “I clumb the hill yesterday.”
6. Counterpin (fancy daytime cover for a bed): “Grandma gave a counterpin to each of her grandchildren.” (Also, counterpane.)
7. Hant (ghost): “The full moon and the fog filled his imagination with dancing hants.”
8. Light a shuck (to leave an area very quickly): “The very thought of hants made him light a shuck.”
9. Near horse (the horse on the left side): “Hitch the near horse to the singletree first.” (A singletree is the bar to which a horse is hitched.)
10. Pallet (a bed of quilts made on the floor): “At grandma’s, pallets covered the parlor whenever the cousins came to visit.”
11. Plunder (household goods): “Before they could paint the cabinets and closets, they piled the plunder on the porch.”
12. Racket Store (five and dime store, or variety store): “Desperate to find a gift, he raced to the racket store.”
13. Resit (recipe): “Grandma gave me this resit, and I’ll copy it for you.”
14. Rinch (rinse): “This pail could use a rinch.”
15. Shivaree (a noisy burlesque serenade after a wedding): “The happy noise from the shivaree could be heard all over town.”
16. Snake doctor (a dragonfly): “The snake doctor hovered near the pond.”
17. Sook (a call to a cow or calf): “You could hear him sook from the house to the meadow.”
18. Surly (a bull): “Stay away from that surly unless you want to get hurt.”
19. Waddie (a cowboy or cowhand): “Can’t you tell by my clothes I’m a real waddie?”
20. Worm fence (a rail fence that zigzags): “Turn left at the worm fence past the tank.”

Of course, there are many Kerr County words in the thesis I did not include in the vocabulary test above – her thesis is 157 pages long, and packed with information.
Ms. Hardy’s thesis is a delight to read, and I’m sorry I never knew her. She takes a serious survey of everyday vocabulary in our county, and notes the regions from which the words and phrases originated. There are hundreds of words listed in the document, some of which are still in use, and many which would be impolite and insensitive to use today.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who thanks Linda Stone for sharing this thesis with all of us. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 25, 2020.

I have two books available -- each is full of historic photographs and stories about Kerr County.  For more information, click HERE.

1 comment:

  1. My Oma, Odie Mae Beaver, a long time resident of Kerrville, used 'shivaree' in her memoir. Your blog, sir, is priceless to me and my family.


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