Date: Thu, 10 Aug 1995 19:17:34 EDT


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

or SOutherners.)

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]

Voice Mail: (606) 783-5164

Snail Mail: UPO 604 Morehead, KY 40351