I’ve always been pretty good with words and terrible at math. Brandon is the opposite. So imagine my surprise when I texted him, Axl rared back and snapped at me, and he replied: I think you mean reared back.
What? That can’t be right. I googled it. “Rare back” wasn’t anywhere to be found. In its place was reared back. I was stunned. Mamaw said rared back. Papaw and daddy did too. Was I losing my mind? I couldn’t be. What about “raring to go?”
I texted Kodecker to see if she says it the way I do, and she does. So I thought, maybe it’s an Appalachian thing. To find out, I turned to Twitter.
I was today years old when I learned it’s not “rared back”, it’s “reared back.”— Cassie Clark (@dogwoodblooms) February 24, 2023
My sister says it the same way. As did Daddy, Mamaw, and Papaw. Any other Appalachians say it this way? 👀
The Twitter responses only made me more confused. Those from the mountains overwhelmingly agreed with me – but a few from other areas did too.
This got me thinking about how dated expressions survive longer in rural areas than in urban ones. When I get a migraine, I say I’ve got “the sick headache.” It’s a term I picked up from Mamaw, but it’s not something many people use in 2023. Perhaps, “rare back” is similar?
After digging around the internet, I only found one website that acknowledges the existence of the phrase rare back. On WordReference.com’s forum board, someone posted a question about Stephen King’s use of the term in The Stand.
One response reads:
“Rare back” does indeed come from “rear back”, and it’s referring to what horses do when they stand on their rear hind legs, as though enthusiastic to begin a gallop, or enter a battlefield.
Used metaphorically, “rare back” means to begin a new action with great enthusiasm. It often is used slightly pejoratively, carrying the meaning of “embarking on an offensive or ill-advised action with gusto and great effrontery or chutzpah, and possibly adding insult to injury”.-grigorei_rasputin
The website’s dictionary includes the following definition: rare: rared, raring (râr) [older use]: rear.
It felt good to see it in black and white. I knew I wasn’t losing my mind. It felt even better to find out that there’s still a few people who are helping keep the old phrase alive.
Do any of y’all say rared back too? Does anyone know it’s origins?