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Bright and Brief

March 16, 1986

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) _ Some folks say money talks, but to the mountain men who roamed the West in the early 1800s, beaver talks.

At least so says linguist J.L. Dillard, who in his book, ″American Talk,″ notes that trappers came up with their own form of English with vocabulary reflecting life in a rugged terrain.

The mountain man’s language was rife with references to beavers, says Dillard.

When a trapper asked another, ″Whose beaver you earnin’?″ he was asking who the man’s employer was. Dillard says a trapper tradition was to receive ″beaver pay″ either in pelts or in an amount equal to the pelts’ worth.

Expressions also emerged from efforts at catching the animal. A beaver trap typically had a 5-foot chain with a float-stick attached.

The mountain man placed the trap in a stream and drove the stick into its bed.

Sometimes, a beaver would knock the trap free sending it downstream. Then the mountain man would have the laborious job of searching the water’s surface for the float-stick.

Dillard says the unfortunate experience was turned into a common mountain man expression used to describe misfortune.

″That’s the way the stick floats″ became equivalent to ″that’s the way the cookie crumbles.″

A beaver analogy also was used to describe the man hit by illness, death or love. Dillard says the afflicted was known as ″a gone beaver.″


MIAMI (AP) - The luck of the Irish, and a champagne bottle, have brought together a Georgia boy whose ancestors came from the Emerald Isle and a retired farmer from County Cork.

The two became acquainted after a note crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a champagne bottle Ryan Cody, 13, of Stone Mountain, Ga., threw overboard during a Caribbean cruise three years ago. Two years later, Cornelius Bohane, 67, found the bottle as he was walking along the shore on his farm. He wrote to Cody.

Saturday night the pair dined together in Miami and prepared to set sail on a free, seven-day Caribbean cruise Sunday, thanks to Carnavale Cruise Lines, which offered to bring them and their families together on a St. Patrick’s Day trip.

″This is the first time ever - that Carnavale is aware of - that one of these has been found and responded to,″ said Tim Gallagher, a spokesman for the Miami-based company.

Thousands of bottles containing letters are thrown overboard Carnavale ships every year, according to Gallagher, as part of activities arranged for children on cruises.

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