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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Score One or a Score

It was in the Viking era that one of today’s less used words or terms came into existence. At the time, it would have been considered most useful. They spelled it skor and we spell it score. It meant to make a mark, that is score or scratch a mark, maybe on a piece of wood, a stone, or something that would be kept. That mark or skor, represented twenty.

So, if you were running cattle in Iceland you would hold a stick in one hand and your knife in the other and as the cattle came through the gate you would make one mark on that stick for every twenty that moved through. We hold little clickers in our hands today and are not any more accurate than the Norseman in 823 AD counting his cattle or sheep or pigs.

In the 1800s, a twenty dollar gold piece was also called a score. To ‘score’ meant you came into possession of twenty bucks by some means or another. Of course ‘to score’ today has an entirely different meaning and may cost you far more than twenty bucks.

Words and how we use them are not set in stone. Trying to read Olde English makes that point understood. Even trying to read the relatively later English spoken by those living at the time of the American Revolution, can be difficult. It is also sadly ironic that many today with a limited knowledge of the language condemn immigrants for not speaking perfect English upon arriving on our shores.

A writer attempting to write in the vernacular of a specific area or era can find nothing but alligators and crocodiles waiting to pounce. If one lives in the hills of West Virginia and tries to write as those living there speak, it should work out fine. If one lives in northern Nevada, has never been to the hills of West Virginia or even known someone from there, it is best not to try to write in the vernacular. You would not score a victory.

Our language changes constantly, generation to generation. In 1870 someone having a gay time means something vastly different than today’s gay time. When reading the Dime Novels of the 1800s one will often find phrases and words that don’t seem to make sense and it takes a little getting used to finding them. It’s like reading Shakespeare for the first time. What am I reading? What does that mean?

Jump now to the year 2210 and picture yourself with a reading instrument of some kind and you’re reading a Ralph Cotton western. Fugm, fugm all, he said, and you say, What? I think it’s time for me to try to score a cold beer. Or a score.

Until next time, read good books and stay regular

Johnny Gunn
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