Corn Dodgers.

I’m about halfway through True Grit (see this post), which is even better than Norwood (David Eddyshaw will love the passage on Election), and I ran into this description of food for the trail:

Here is what he brought along for “grub”: a sack of salt and a sack of red pepper and a sack of taffy — all this in his jacket pockets — and then some ground coffee beans and a big slab of salt pork and one hundred and seventy corn dodgers. I could scarcely credit it. The “corn dodgers” were balls of what I would call hot-water cornbread.

I had never run across the term, though if you google it it’s clearly still widespread and there are lots of recipes online (e.g.); I like cornbread in any form, but what leads me to post is the “dodgers” part. There’s nothing useful in the OED, and Green’s Dictionary of Slang is currently unavailable (“The server encountered an internal error and was unable to complete your request. Either the server is overloaded or there is an error in the application.”); anybody have any ideas?

I also note that Mattie, the book’s narrator, refers to the “M. K. & T. Railroad,” which turns out to be the Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railway, better known as “the Katy”; I well remember thegrowlingwolf reminiscing about it from his Texas days.

Also, incoming Christmas items of interest: the Songdog family gave me Jonathan Waterlow’s It’s Only A Joke, Comrade!: Humour, Trust and Everyday Life under Stalin (1928-1941), which looks wonderful, and bulbul gave me A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, which won the 2020 Hugo Award for Best Novel and has gotten rave reviews — I can’t wait to dig in. Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it!


  1. I read the book and watched the (Coen Brothers) movie after reading Donna Tartt’s NYT essay on Charles Portis.
    The movie hews pretty closely to the book, both are terrific.

  2. I saw the movie long ago but will have to watch it again when I have read the book.

  3. This entry for dadge “bannock” in the Scottish National Dictionary seems relevant.

    Here is the passage from Murray’s Havick Characters cited in that entry.

    And here is the phonological note in George Watson’s Roxburghshire word-book (§23) referred to in the SND etymology.

    Also note the entries for dadge and dadger in Watson’s work.

    (The relevant OED entry for dodge (first citation from 1562) has not been updated since publication in 1897.)

  4. Yes, dadge ‘bannock’ and dodge ‘A large irregular piece, a lump’ definitely seem relevant.

  5. In the Windwalker Movie, circa 1980, with Trever Howard as the sole non-native actor,”corn-dodger” is either an ethnonym or a term of disparagement. Writers include Ray Goldrup and Blaine Yorgason. All language is either Crow or Cheyenne, but Corn-dodger may be a loan-word from English, or an accidental homonym. Unless your political correctness has reached heights beyond my ken, this is a wonderful movie, but I can’t find it in my VHS collection to re-watch, so I’m not sure it’s as virtuous as I remember. Old geezer defeats bear, and clever kids outsmart hostiles. What’s not to love? Unless you’re a Crow, of course. This movie is very pro-Cheyenne. We are in Colorado or Utah at some time prior to Anglo intrusion, but the Cheyenne are clearly suffering from introduced diseases.

  6. The earliest I can find of it is in Frances Milton Trollope’s Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832), a long discourse on how Americans are gluttonous blowhards; followed by a fittingly vicious retort in The Knickerbocker of 1833, which calls the dodger cake “a species which Mrs. Trollope had the honor of inventing, for it was never heard of in Cincinnati before”. The corn dodger makes a notable appearance in The Military and Naval Magazine of the United States (1835): “A ‘corn dodger’ is a small cornmeal cake, about the size of a goose’s egg, and not unlike it in shape. When hard baked, it will defy the attacks of the stoutest human teeth, and might answer, in case of need, for a ball for small cannon!”

  7. So a corn dodger is a hush puppy?

  8. David Eddyshaw says

    A Memory Called Empire is pretty enjoyable.

    I managed to read the whole thing under the misapprehension that the author was male, and was (without consciously thinking about it) mentally awarding merit points for “him” doing a remarkably good job of imagining “himself” into the POV of a female protagonist. Even without the spurious merit points, it has quite enough other merits to be going on with, though. The author shows signs of having read (specifically) Herodotus’ ruminations on the endless variety of human customs, and how what is shocking in one culture is quite boringly conformist in another* … (by itself, enough of a commendation for Hatters, I suspect.)

    *My go-to example of this in science fiction is Alexei Panshin’s Rite of Passage, in which the heroine’s (quite rightly) beloved father is basically a major-league war criminal by our lights. Also, my daughter, when she first read it as a teenage girl, didn’t know that “Alexei” was a boy’s name, and found it astonishing, when she discovered her mistake, that Panshin had done such a good job of imagining a teenage female protagonist from the inside … evidently this sort of confusion runs in the family.

  9. Your go to example looks more like point of view difference (Samson for Philistines = Kashchey the Deathless) than difference in customs (you follow your custom of burning widows and I will follow our custom of hanging murderers)

  10. Arkady is a Russian male name, so confusion is understandable. Wiki says her real name is AnnaLinden Weller and Arkady Martine is a pseudonym.

    From George Sand to James Tiptree Jr., the list of female authors writing under male pseudonyms is huge.

  11. Another male pseudonym used by a female author is Robert Galbraith. I wonder if the author had psychiatrist Robert Galbraith Heath at the back of her mind.

  12. Contrariwise, I keep being blindsided by people named Alexis who turn out to be women. (Wikipedia tells me “While the name is mostly male, it has been predominantly given to females in the United States since at least the 1940s, when actress Alexis Smith began appearing in films.”)

  13. I head of “corn dodger” somewhere but have no insight.
    I can say, Green’s Dic. o’ Slang being down, that his 2005 Cassell’s has via GB snippet:
    Found inside – Page 418
    “[note Kent dial, dodger, a nightcap, the last drink of the day] dodger n.2 [mid-19C; 1910s+] (Aus.) bread, a sandwich, food in general; thus hunk of dodger, a slice of bread. (? Northumberland dial, dodge, a lump, a chunk] dodger nJ [mid-late”
    Trove Australian Newspapers gives from Jan. 24, 1940 on “Soldier’s slang” “A slice of bread is called a “yunk [sic] of dodger.”
    Long-shot dept.: Portis, author of “I Don’t Talk Service No More” in Atlantic Magazine, May, 1996 [linked at wikip.], served in Korea, maybe with Aussies, though maybe irrelevant coincidence in this case.

  14. Thanks! And Trevor e-mailed me a link to the Jammie Dodgers Wikipedia page in case it was relevant.

  15. @ Keith Ivey: So a corn dodger is a hush puppy?

    Yes, as I thought when reading it in True Grits and as is stated in the WiPe article on hush puppy. The etymology given there doesn’t convince me:

    # The first recorded use of the word “hush-puppy” dates to 1899.[4] The name is often attributed to hunters, fishermen, or other cooks who would fry some basic cornmeal mixture (possibly that they had been bread-coating or battering their own food with) and feed it to their dogs to “hush the puppies” during cook-outs or fish-fries.[5] Other legends date the term to the Civil War, in which Confederate soldiers are said to have tossed fried cornbread to quell the barks of their dogs.[6] #

    This has more details, although non-conclusive:

    # As far back as the 18th century, the phrase was used as a term for silencing someone or covering something up. An 1738 account describes crooked British officials who, when ordered to board and search a vessel suspected of smuggling, “played the Game of Hush-Puppy,” delaying several hours to listen to music in the captain’s cabin before conducting their search, by which point the crew had hidden the contraband beneath the ship’s ballast.


    Besides “red horse bread,” Southerners had several of other names for what we now call hushpuppies, like “wampus” in Florida, and “red devils” and “three finger bread” in Georgia. But hushpuppy was the term that stuck. By the 1940s, the word had spread up the Carolina coast, and hushpuppies were being served alongside fried fish and steamed oysters at seafood joints catering to beachgoers and tourists heading down U.S. 17 toward Florida. #

  16. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I am more intrigued by these sacks, three of which fit in a pocket.

    It reminds me a bit of walking down a hill with an American friend going ‘Is that a rock? What about that?’. For me it’s definitely not a rock if you can hold it in your hand.

  17. True Grits

    Made me laugh!

  18. In geology, a boulder is a rock fragment with size greater than 256 millimetres (10.1 in) in diameter.[1] Smaller pieces are called cobbles and pebbles. While a boulder may be small enough to move or roll manually, others are extremely massive.[2] In common usage, a boulder is too large for a person to move. Smaller boulders are usually just called rocks (American English) or stones (In British English a rock is larger than a boulder)

    Several dictionaries also say that meaning of rock as “stone of any size” is North American English.

  19. Yes, that’s how I use “rock.” I use “stone” mainly of the building material and in set phrases like “throw the first stone.”

  20. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I don’t think a rock is necessarily larger than a boulder – I’d call anything a rock which was too big to easily shift with a foot, roughly speaking, whereas ‘boulder’ suggests to me a glacial erratic type, big and solid.

    I suppose if rocks and sacks can still also be large it’s only a shift from particular to general (if the British meaning came first). But I was definitely picturing the kind of sack that is more likely to be dragged, until I came to the pocket bit.

  21. Note to @DavidEddyshaw:
    Arkady Martine/AnnaLinden Weller has read rather more than just Herodotus. Like Ada Palmer (whose work is also extraordinary, and very language-focused) she is an academic historian. Excerpt from her biography below:

    “She attended the Uni­versity of Chicago, graduating with a BA in religious studies in 2007. She earned a master’s in in classical Armenian studies at the University of Oxford in 2013, and a Ph.D. in history at Rutgers in 2014, with a dissertation on Byzantine imperial agents working on the borders of empire. She most recently completed a master’s in urban and community planning from the University of Maryland.”

    I’d say it’s the background in Byzantine history that most informs the novel.

  22. My first contribution to the OED was “hooraw” from True Grit. Never thought to contribute “dodger.”

  23. i quite liked “A Memory Called Empire”, and am looking forward to the sequel (or 2nd in a trilogy, i think?) – called “A Desolation Called Peace”, in case anyone still had doubts about her credentials as a classicist…

    and to me (new england raised; new yorker parents) a rock can be any size (from pebble to boulder), but stones are rarely singular…

  24. I’ve just started A Memory Called Empire and am already well and truly hooked. (And Lsel is, as I guessed, Armenian, and means ‘listen’!)

  25. Now his bread it was corn dodger
    And his meat you couldn’t chaw,
    Nearly drove me crazy
    With the waggin’ of his jaw.

    Diamond Joe was the first thing that popped into my head.

  26. The prototypically sack is large, but I don’t think there is actually any minimum size in my idiolect. Sometimes, what constitutes a sack as opposed to a bag (or a scrip) is explicitly relative. When I was a child, paper groceries sacks were the norm, and that terminology was often used to distinguish the large paper bags from the grocery store from a smaller plastic or paper back that someone might carry their lunch it. On the other hand, every year one of our next-door neighbors in East Lansing got a huge load of freshly harvested corn on the cob from a relative’s farm, and all the neighborhood kids would follow along as he delivered corn to everyone on the street. The corn came in huge burlap sacks but were transferred to paper grocery bags to be handed out.*

    As for rocks and stones, they were discussed in extensively discussed here, including some disagreements about testicular senses that did not seem to be completely resolved. At age eight, I puzzled about where the boundary lay between tolk [the pebble], and a larger stone, since in Earthsea, Kurremkarmerruk would tell us nothing in the world can have two true names.

    The Master Hand looked at the jewel that glittered on Ged’s palm, bright as the prize of a dragon’s hoard. The Old Master murmured one word, “Tolk,” and there lay the pebble, no jewel but a rough grey bit of rock.

    * The largest family on the street (six kids) actually got a whole sack,** but they were asked to return the burlap sack, whereas the paper bags could just be discarded. (It was before the days of widespread recycling.)

    ** Even for eight people, including multiple teenagers, this was an enormous amount of corn. However, my neighbor’s general policy as we went along the street (with all the kids contributing their wagons to help transport the corn) was to ask at each house how much they wanted, then give them twice as much.

  27. David Eddyshaw says

    David Eddyshaw will love the passage on Election

    Yes indeed (reading my Christmas present now …)

    I’m only surprised they left it out of the movie. You’d have thought they’d be keen to appeal to the lucrative Calvinist moviegoer market. (We prefer to read the spoilers before seeing the movie, of course.)

  28. Needless to say, this is totally unrelated to the term “poddy dodger“.

  29. The OED has an example from 1831. The name apparently has to do with dodging the cake in the pan, i.e. moving it around in the hot oil.

  30. January First-of-May says

    I don’t think a rock is necessarily larger than a boulder – I’d call anything a rock which was too big to easily shift with a foot, roughly speaking, whereas ‘boulder’ suggests to me a glacial erratic type, big and solid.

    Obligatory: Large boulder the size of a small boulder.

    The Russian words corresponding to rock, stone and boulder are probably скала, камень and валун respectively – though the rock/скала correspondence only work for the British sense of rock. (A Russian скала definitely cannot be small enough to pick up, and is in fact probably more likely than not directly attached to the ground.)

  31. скала

    From Proto-Finnic [Term?] (compare Estonian kalju, Ingrian kallio, Karelian kallivo, Veps kal, Votic kallo), borrowed from Proto-Germanic *hallijǭ.

    IPA(key): /ˈkɑlːio/, [ˈkɑlːio̞]
    Rhymes: -ɑlːio
    Syllabification: kal‧li‧o

    1. Rock, as the aggregate of solid mineral matter (stone) that constitutes a significant part of the earth’s crust.
    2. A rock, as a hill having no or just a little vegetation and consisting of solid rock.
    3. (figurative) A rock, as something that is strong, stable, and dependable.

  32. Trond Engen says

    The corresponding helle now means “flat stone, flagstone, slab”.

  33. The corresponding helle

    … in turn gave rise to another round of borrowing:

    Borrowed from Swedish häll.

    IPA(key): /ˈhelːɑ/, [ˈhe̞lːɑ]
    Rhymes: -elːɑ
    Syllabification: hel‧la

    1. range, stove (for cooking)
    Synonym: liesi
    2. (colloquial) oven

  34. David Marjanović says

    Large boulder the size of a small boulder

    “Look at the sizes of that thing!”

    A Russian скала definitely cannot be small enough to pick up, and is in fact probably more likely than not directly attached to the ground.

    That’s a SAE category (roche, Fels(en)…) that hasn’t made it to the sceptered isle.

  35. The decisive difference between bag and sack is that Santa has a sack, never a bag, from which he distributes gifts.

  36. Green is back!

    dodger n.²
    [? Northumberland dial. dodge, a lump, a chunk]

  37. David Eddyshaw says

    That’s a SAE category (roche, Fels(en)…)

    Kusaal distinguishes “stone” from “hill” (there aren’t any actual mountains thereabouts), as in the proverb

    Kuga la’asidne zuorin.
    “Stones gather on a hill.” (i.e. “The rich get richer while the poor get poorer.”)

    However, in Oti-Volta as a whole, etyma meaning “stone” in one language very often mean “hill, mountain” in another language, e.g. Mooré kugri “stone”, Yom koɣrə “mountain”; Yom tanə “stone”, Mooré tãnga “mountain.”

  38. David Eddyshaw says

    (Interesting inasmuch as “stone” and “mountain” each figure independently in Swadesh’s 100 list. Even that short list of supposedly human-basic words breaks down rapidly once you leave the comfort zone of SAE. “Feather”, “round”, “green” and “yellow” are also problematic in West Africa …)

  39. I remember my realization of the Swadesh list’s inadequacies as one of the formative stages in my development as a linguist.

  40. “Feather”, “round”, “green” and “yellow” are also problematic in West Africa

    Everyone knows about colors; what happens with ‘feather’ and ’round’?

  41. David Marjanović says

    Never fear! The Leipzig–Jakarta list is here.


    The items house, name, rope and to tie are products of human culture, but are probably found in all present-day human societies.

    Close enough, but “name” isn’t quite universal. In some places with very low population density, people don’t traditionally have names and go by kinship terms.

  42. David Eddyshaw says


    “Feather” is consistently “bird hair”, using the word for animal hair/human body hair (which is almost always distinct from “human head hair.”) “Yellow” is normally expressed as “dawadawa-coloured” in lots of languages, but there’s hardly ever an unanalysable single “word” for it.

    “Round” is usually expressed by a whole lot of essentially phonaesthetic/ideophonic words, which (as is the way of such words) often differ strikingly between otherwise quite closely related languages; in a West African context, using words like these for comparative purposes is about as sensible as using words for “bow wow” or “yummy” in Europe.

    Elsewhere, there are systematic semantic overlaps which make sense once you’ve seen them, but are still not what you’d expect on the basis of SAE (for example, “tendon/root.”)

    In Oti-Volta (at any rate) even some of the function words which seem self-evidently likely to be stable from a SAE point of view turn out not to be; for example, whereas the personal pronouns are mostly obviously cognate across the family (and far beyond, for that matter), common quantifiers like “all” differ even between dialects, let alone closely related languages.

  43. David Marjanović says

    “Feather”, “wing” and “fin” are not differentiated in Ancient Greek as known to taxonomists.

  44. Trond Engen says

    “Round” is a borrowing in Germanic. How’s that for euro-centricism?

  45. David Eddyshaw says

    Ah! We Brits will be free, free, of all that nasty Eurocentrism on Friday!

    I’ve been stockpiling woad.

    (I’m looking forward to the English realising that they need to put their verbs first, not second, like those horrid people across the English Channel do. How unBritish is that?)

  46. Lars Mathiesen says

    Link please the photos go when you shopping dressed in woad only on January 1st.

    Guess so would I is it now the Sea of Jutland on our side?

  47. David Eddyshaw says

    (Hey, if you’re going to be nostalgic for a past that never actually existed, why stop at just a few decades/centuries?)

    Link please the photos go when you shopping dressed in woad only on January 1st.

    Photos? You can’t handle photos of me shopping dressed in woad only* …

    *The effect has been described as “eldritch.” More hostile commentators have suggested “rugose”, or even “batrachian.” People can be quite cruel sometimes.

  48. A blue mountain walked or stumbled.

  49. David Eddyshaw says

    On the Internet, nobody knows you’re an eldritch abomination.

  50. with Trever Howard as the sole non-native actor

    The young Windwalker is portrayed by James Remar, also non-Native, whereas Howard played the older version.

    What’s not to love? Unless you’re a Crow, of course.

    Indeed, the only morally worthy Crow turns out to be in fact Cheyenne. [Note: worthy in AmE, at least my AmE, is not necessarily ironic.]

    We are in Colorado or Utah at some time prior to Anglo intrusion,

    Utah around the turn of the 18th-19th centuries.

    the heroine’s (quite rightly) beloved father is basically a major-league war criminal by our lights

    The gangster who is a good family man is an American trope, though the CEO who is a good family man is more common in real life. “It’s just business.”

    The etymology given there doesn’t convince me

    You could even say it is dodgy.

    Arkady is a Russian male name, so confusion is understandable.

    The fictional author Arcadia Darell who writes as “Arkady Darell” may or may not be intended to be using a male pseudonym: the text gives no hint of that, though the author is Russian-born (but American-raised).

    a rock can be any size (from pebble to boulder)

    There is an upper bound, though: rock in AmE can’t mean a cliff or crag, the oldest sense of rock in English, at least since 1830 or so. Proper names like Table Rock (Niagara Falls), Plymouth Rock, the Rock of Gibraltar are excepted, of course, as are Biblical references.

    The OED3 has a recent Australian use of rock ‘stone projectile’, though.

    Santa has a sack, never a bag

    Googling [Santa Claus bag] turns up plenty of sacks a meter tall or more. Sack is used in the Moore poem, which gives it more currency than it would otherwise have outside the South.

  51. Geologists don’t use stone except in compounds for rock types. A rock is the material, or a piece of it of any size. Boulder and pebble are used when discussing particular size classes.

    P.S. Do sailors ever use “rope”?

  52. John Cowan says

    They do. There are five ropes on a boat or ship (this remark is used to rebuke a lubber who refers to a sheet as a rope, though of course there may be fewer):

    1) The bell rope is used to ring the ship’s bell with.

    2) The wheel rope runs from the (steering) wheel (or tiller, on smaller craft) to the rudder.

    3) A tow rope is one used to tow another vessel, the longer the better.

    4) Similarly, a man rope is one of the two ropes which serve as handholds, rigged next to a gangway or ladder.

    5) The bolt rope on a sailing ship is used to stiffen the leading edge of the headsail (which is so named because it is immediately above the waste evacuation facility). Typically the sail is folded in half with the rope at the fold: bolt in this context means a fold in a cloth.

    The collective term for these ropes, as well as all the various brails, halyards, jackstays, sheets, vangs, warps, whips, and what-have-you is lines: this is also a mass noun for what you buy at a ship chandler’s (besides candles, obviously), though cordage is probably more common today.

  53. The story of sheet is complicated; OED (1914):

    To the root skaut- belong the foll. forms: (1) of the strong declension, Old English scéat (masculine) (which may be partly the source of the modern English sheet) corner, quarter, region, lap, bosom, bay, skirt, cloth, Old Frisian skât, schât skirt, lappet (North Frisian skuat, skut, etc. lap, sail-rope), Middle Low German schôt, (Middle) Dutch schoot masculine and feminine, lap, sail-rope, Old High German (masculine, feminine, and neuter) scôȥ (Middle High German schôȥ, German schoss) skirt, lappet, lap, Old Norse skaut neuter, corner of cloth, quarter (of earth, heaven), skirt, bosom, sail-rope (Middle Swedish sköt lower corner of a sail, fold in clothing, bosom, lap, Danish skjød lap, skirt), Gothic skaut-s masculine or skaut neuter κράσπεδον, hem of a garment; (2) of the weak declension, Old English scéata (masculine) (see sheet n.2), Old High German scôȥa (Middle High German schôȥe) feminine, (Middle) Low German schôte sail-rope, Old Norse skaute (masculine), kerchief (Swedish sköte bosom, lap, Danish skjøde sail-rope).

  54. Lars Mathiesen says

    Note that as usual, OED (1914) hadn’t realized that Danish orthography changed in 1892 — FWIW, skød still means ‘lap’ (for sitting on), kjoleskød is the skirt part of a dress, while skøder, plural of skøde, also means ‘coat tails’.

  55. David Marjanović says

    Ah, so Rockschöße are coattails. Makes sense now.

    Schoß is exclusively “lap” otherwise, and exclusively masculine.

  56. Lars Mathiesen says

    Oh, and to prevent confusion, I had better explain that the traditional male dress code similar to white tie is called kjole og hvidt, and the tailcoat is called kjole(frakke) — so men’s kjoleskøder (singular kjoleskøde) are not at all the same as women’s (singular kjoleskød). Whereas both genders can have frakkeskøder (singular frakkeskøde) if their topcoat is slit at the back.

    (Thinking this over again, female kjoleskøder belong to the trope of small children clinging to their mother’s skirts, for maybe the last 100 years. Before that fair maidens might be lifting theirs to cross a puddle, in mortal peril of flashing an ankle).

  57. I just thought of an instance of “pebble” where the word refers to what has to be a reasonably large rock. From chapter 7 of The Time Machine:

    “But I was not beaten yet. I banged with my fist at the bronze panels. I thought I heard something stir inside—to be explicit, I thought I heard a sound like a chuckle—but I must have been mistaken. Then I got a big pebble from the river, and came and hammered till I had flattened a coil in the decorations, and the verdigris came off in powdery flakes. The delicate little people must have heard me hammering in gusty outbreaks a mile away on either hand, but nothing came of it

  58. PlasticPaddy says

    I believe the word pebble may have originally referred to smooth and blunt stones, independent of size:
    from Henry VI, Part I, Act III, Scene 1

    The bishop and the Duke of Gloucester’s men,
    Forbidden late to carry any weapon,
    Have fill’d their pockets full of pebble stones
    And banding themselves in contrary parts
    Do pelt so fast at one another’s pate
    That many have their giddy brains knock’d out:

    Wells has “big pebble”, so the default might have been “small” for him.

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