Finding America

Me and Tarah

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Contrary to popular belief, American English is replete with words so satisfying on the tongue you’d be mistaken for thinking they were the work of Dickens. Words that endlessly gratify; words that give you the feeling of that first sip of coffee in the morning; words of such majesty the United States didn’t want to share them with anyone else. Except maybe Canada. That’s right; here are five brilliant English words coined in America that only North Americans use.

Laurence Brown is a British writer and YouTuber who somehow convinced the city of Chicago to let him in. He is an English Language graduate from Lancaster University and a passionate word etymologist, with a particular interest in British and American neologisms. Since moving to the United States, he has become increasingly curious about Britain's historical influence on American culture and about America in general.


  1. Southeast Kansas/Southwest Missouri. Ornery is pronounced “onn’ry” here. And it’s very difficult to convince the natives it is spelled o-r-n-e-r-y.

  2. I grew up in SW Pennsylvania and have known ornery (actually all these words) my whole life. I have always understood ornery to suggest bad-tempered, uncooperative, unpleasant to deal with. One expression: He's as ornery as a hungover skunk!

  3. In middle Tennessee, pronounced orn'ry. I understand it to mean irritable, peeved. It is used in the Appalachian Christmas carol
    "I Wonder as I Wander" ...
    "I wonder as I wander Out under the sky
    How Jesus the Savio(u)r did come for to die
    For poor ornery people like you and like I
    I wonder as I wander Out under the sky."

  4. yes ornery is used in Alabama to mean being in a very bad mood. Sometimes it is used more commonly for the elderly when they are in a particularly bad mood.


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