Dictionary of American Regional English: Love and Hate

Julie D. over at Happy Catholic has been posting about the fun Twitter feed from the Dictionary of American Regional English. And it is indeed awesome.

But one of their example words was the Kentucky word “hardboot”, which they define as “someone interested in horses, especially a horse trainer.”

Argh argh argh argh no. Not unless clueless people have been appropriating the word.

“Hardboots” are the tough, old, experienced horse trainers and horsemen (and sometimes horsewomen), who seem to know everything, and who are maybe a little hidebound. You don’t get to be a “hardboot” by taking an interest, or even by being a horse trainer. You get to be a hardboot by spending thirty or forty hard years working with horses, mostly for thoroughbred racing. And Kentucky hardboots are supposed to be even more hardcore than those elsewhere. Their training and handling methods are supposed to be old-fashioned, and he’s not afraid to stand in a wet field or on a muddy track and get dirty.

As one horse racing site’s glossary defines it, “A Kentucky horseman of the old school, because of the legendary amount of mud caked on his boots.”

It’s not necessarily a nice term, either. Not dishonorable, mind you, and you might be pleased if other people called you “one of the hardboots.” But you wouldn’t call yourself a hardboot unless you were being self-deprecating. And I guarantee you that racing people from other states are always complaining about the Kentucky hardboots.

Shrug. Obviously no single reference work can cover everything, but it’s bad to see mistakes that obvious.

Here’s a lovely old Damon Runyon article, chronicling the days when Kentucky hardboots gave authentic Kentucky rebel yells.

1 Comment

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One response to “Dictionary of American Regional English: Love and Hate

  1. I don’t know who supplies the twitter definitions, but if you look up hardboot in DARE, you’ll find citations that correspond closely to your description. Only the first entry is similar to what you quote–except that the last word of that quotation is “breeder,” not “trainer.
    The purpose of DARE is not so much to define a word as to give examples of how the word is actually used in various parts of the country. With that purpose in mind, I don’t think an entry can actually be termed a “mistake.”

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