Date: Thu, 10 Aug 1995 19:17:34 EDT
From: Terry Lynn Irons t.irons[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MSUACAD.MOREHEAD-ST.EDU
Subject: snake doctors and such
I have been working with some of the field records from the LANCS
archives (via the wonderfully preserved microfilms) and have come across
a few variant responses for dragon fly (short sheets, page 46, item 8)
in Kentucky records that I need some help with. They maybe attested in
DARE, but I am at home and dont have those volumes to hand. SO.
First of all Kentucky is a snake doctor/feeder state (which I knew
existed but never heard until I moved here) and is generally found
in the LANCS records. These usages have by and large died out among
contemporary speakers, but preliminary pilot work suggests that the
forms are preserved in eastern ky, with a sharp boundary between doctor
and feeder head nouns.
The forms I encounter in the field records that are novel to me and
that I have not seen attested elswehere (but I am by no means to be
considered widely read) include the following:
snake fly Mercer cty also knows snake doctor
witch doctor Scott Cty also knows snake doctor
snake bug Johnson Cty also knows snake charmer
snake master Calloway Cty also knows mosquito hawk
devils horse this is a secondary response from informants
in Hickman Cty, field work by Raven. I am
interpreting his notes as the second word being
horse. This may not be accurate. The response
is clearly not devils darning needle, which is
attested three other times in KY.
snake fisher Bell Cty
snake eater Leslie Cty
flying grampa secondary response Whitely Cty.
Also from Leslie Cty I have a secondary response that I cannot
decipher from Ravin's notes. The primary response is devils
darning needle (lot of legs) Written above in the commments section
is w^ ? l krI^kIt I dont know if this this is some lexical variant
for dragon fly or for a variety of earthworm/nightcrawler (46.7A &B).
This item is particularly interesting because it is one of the
distinctive features of Midland dialects listed by Kurath in his
Word Geography. Actually, he says snake feeder is Midland, snake
doctor is Southern. I have not yet plotted the distribution of
these features across KY (data to which Kurath did not have access
in 1949), but it is clear that doctors outnumber feeders, which suggests
that the south midland boundary (if such a thing ever existed) may
be further north than the projections in early maps. Who knows?
(But there was a distinct Midland dialect--or at least an Ohio
Valley accent; I hear it in my relatives, and they aint Northerners
My query at this time is, does anyone know of other attestations of the
above cited forms in other areas? Does anyone know what the
cryptic form noted by Ravin might be? If so, is it attested elsewhere?
Terry Lynn Irons t.irons[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]msuacad.morehead-st.edu
Voice Mail: (606) 783-5164
Snail Mail: UPO 604 Morehead, KY 40351