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I saw the text below, yet I don't get what the sentence mean:

A woodsman in the back of the crowd spoke up. "If'n he was lost and thou wandered by and found him, wouldn't that make thee lost too, Danal?" All eyes turned back to Boone.

"I can't say as ever I was lost, John, but I was bewildered once for three days." The crowd had a good laugh, releasing some of the tension brought on by the talk about the Indians. (from Russell Lunsford's Benjamin Nathan Tuggle)

Would anyone please explain what Boone meant? Is it that he had been lost before yet couldn't admit that anymore, or that he had never been literally lost? (Then what's the difference between "lost" and "bewildered"?)

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    Please, include the source of your text? Is "Benjamin Nathan Tuggle - Adventurer -" by Russell Lunsford? – RubioRic Jun 27 '18 at 10:39
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    as is an older way of introducing a subordinate clause, similar to that. I can't say that I was ever lost. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 27 '18 at 10:40
  • Thanks for reminding me, RubioRic. I've included the source. And thanks for the straightforward explanation, Tᴚoɯɐuo. – user32250 Jul 1 '18 at 13:14
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Using as instead of the standard relativizer that is a relatively common "dialectal" feature - particularly with negated stative verbs such as know, see, feel...

1: We don't know as we believe him.
2: He can't see as it matters whether we believe him or not.
3: I don't feel as I trust him.

Although competent native speakers know perfectly well this usage is "ungrammatical", some of us use it occasionally to add "folksy" authenticity to a negating / demurring utterance. But others just do it because they're ill-educated, so I wouldn't advise non-native speakers to copy the usage lest they be mistaken for that latter category.


The other "marked" aspect of OP's cited text is the stylistic "inversion" ever I was lost, which would normally be expressed as [I can't say that] I was ever lost. This is more of a "poetic" usage than a "dialectal" one - but since the context here is folk hero Daniel Boone, it's not inappropriate.


The construction I can't say that [statement X] is an idiomatic usage normally implying a degree of hesitancy about baldly asserting that X is not true (as in the cited example). Sometimes the speaker really does want to "weaken" his assertion in this way, but sometimes it's a "sarcastic" usage that actually emphasises the degree to which the speaker rejects proposition / statement X.

To paraphrase the cited text...

I was never actually lost, but once it took me a few days to figure out where I was.

(Most people would say that if it took you days to find your way out of the wilderness, you were in fact "lost", but Boone humorously avoids having to explicitly admit that.)

  • Thanks for detailed explanations in dialectal usage, styles and all the examples. – user32250 Jul 1 '18 at 13:18
  • There is more to say in this area. Specifically, I should point out that there are certain contexts where even careful speakers will use as in contexts where you might expect that. Both the following are perfectly valid... 1: Wealthy man that he is, John cannot buy happiness, and 2: Wealthy as he is, John cannot buy happiness. Personally I don't think I'd like either of those if the highlighted words were swapped, but I don't really know how to describe what "rules" (or maybe just "idiomatic preferences" ) are involved there. So I might even ask about this on ELU. – FumbleFingers Jul 1 '18 at 13:41
  • ...asked on ELU – FumbleFingers Jul 1 '18 at 15:14
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In this case his use of the word bewildered implies to me that while he may have been confused (bewildered) for three days about where he was, he wasn't equating that with being lost.

So I think this is quite philosophical. What does it mean to be lost? You can (as Daniel seems to be implying here) not know where you are, but not feel lost. Many explorers throughout the ages probably didn't know where they were, but I don't think many of them would have said they were lost.

How "lost" do you need to be before you are lost? Does "lost" only mean you don't know where you are? Or does it mean that you don't know where you are going?

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    Thanks for suggesting the philosophical aspect, it was confusing for me before your interpretation. – user32250 Jul 1 '18 at 13:20

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