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greenhorn / greeny

Greenhorn. A raw youth. — Webster, 1882

Greeny. One who is immature in age or experience; young; raw; not trained; awkward as, green in years or judgment. — Webster, 1882

At the risk of telling an old story: A big lunking greenhork had just passed the age of twenty-one, and his father thought it was best to encourage the young man, and also to “ease up” a little on his paternal care. Calling his son to him one day, he said: “Now, John, it is about time that you got married and settled down in a home of your own.” “But I don’t know any girls to get married to,” whined John. “Fly around and get acquainted with some, that is the way I did when I was young. How do you suppose that I ever got married?” inquired the old gentleman. “Well,” said John, pitifully, “You married Mother, and I’ve got to marry a strange gal.” – 1879 newspaper

Silly Nellie Oleson, to not want the greenhorn, Cap Garland! Laura Ingalls Wilder confessed in her Pioneer Girl memoir (more than once) that she had her eye on Cap and she hoped he’d be the young man who walked her home from the revival, took her for buggy rides, or went walking with her. Maybe Laura included Nellie’s disparaging comment in Little Town on the Prairie in order to also show that Cap didn’t have his eye on Nellie at all, no matter what the Mary Power / Cap Garland story has to do with it. Nellie, of course, has her eye on Almanzo Wilder, the dashing young homesteader with the beautiful horses. And we all know how that story ends.

A young man who is “green” is said to be like green cheese (except maybe not stinky): young and fresh, or a greenhorn. A green-horn ox is a young one with horns just making their appearance; metaphorically, a young lad no more accustomed to the ways of the world than a young steer to the plow. — E.B. Brewer, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (New York: Cassell & Co., 1870), 365.

In Pioneer Girl, Laura Ingalls Wilder seems to categorize all her Dakota suitors as green, until Almanzo Wilder steps up and notices her. She describes Ernest Perry as a “big strong boy” who plows in his bare feet. Nothing is really wrong with Fred Gilbert except that he’s a “green country boy.” She doesn’t want to be with Arthur Johnson after walking home from church with him; maybe his shoes still squeaked?


greenhorn (SSL 24)
     green / greeny (LTP 16; PG)