I'm reading O. Henry The Roads We Take, and there is the phrase, that doesn't make any sense for me.

Shark Dodson got up and leaned against a tree. "I'd a good deal rather that sorrel of yourn hadn't hurt himself, Bob," he said ...

  • 2
    Research the terms sorrel horse and yourn and tell us what you find.
    – Davo
    Aug 23 '17 at 15:46
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    For your own peace of mind, none of this is in standard usage. I'm a native, educated speaker and out of context I'd have no idea what this meant. Aug 23 '17 at 19:41
  • For some reason, I thought "sorrel of yourn" was a euphemism for son of bitch. :P
    – Masked Man
    Aug 24 '17 at 4:07
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    @Davo, thanks a lot, 'sorrel <b>horse</b>' was the right part of what I needed to get the sense! Aug 24 '17 at 5:56

Yourn is a dialect form of yours—it has the same -n affix as mine, which shows up in the corresponding dialect forms hisn, hern, ourn. That sorrel of yourn = That sorrel of yours.

So Shark is expressing a wish ("I'd a good deal rather") that Bob's sorrel (a chestnut-colored horse) had not "hurt himself"—that is, had not been hurt.

  • There's something of "garden path" aspect to the cited text, in that in the written form, we (native speakers and learners) might be momentarily misled into parsing that as an optional (conjunction?) as it would be in, say, I would rather [that] you did it. Which issue wouldn't normally arise in the spoken version, since if it were that optional element, it would be de-stressed, with only a neutral vowel. Aug 23 '17 at 16:01
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    @FumbleFingers Fersher. But it's a very short path, since it's evident almost immediately that that has to act as the obligatory determiner on sorrel. Aug 23 '17 at 16:11
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    @Tᴚoɯɐuo That requires knowledge of the noun in question; I'd never heard of sorrel = type of horse, so my first thought was the herb, and plant names can generally be used to refer to the whole variety, so someone who didn't like the flavour might well say "I would rather that sorrel didn't exist". (It's not a species vs sub-species thing, more animal vs plant I think - "I would rather that dog didn't exist" makes no more sense than "...bulldog...". "Man" meaning "mankind" is something rather different.)
    – IMSoP
    Aug 24 '17 at 10:05
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    @Tᴚoɯɐuo We were talking about garden path sentences. Up until "I'd a good deal rather that sorrel ..." the "herb" interpretation makes sense; without knowing "yourn", "sorrel of yourn" could still be a noun phrase that worked in this interpretation, as in "I'd a good deal rather that Richard of York..." [I'm not sure why you feel the need to "respond" to my "argument", I was just expanding on an observation another commenter had made that there is "something a garden path aspect to the cited text".]
    – IMSoP
    Aug 24 '17 at 10:28
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    @Tᴚoɯɐuo Indeed, which is exactly what FumbleFingers said in the first comment. :)
    – IMSoP
    Aug 24 '17 at 11:28

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