During a running debate or whether I Wonder as I Wander qualifies as a Christmas Carol, I looked up the lyrics. The first verse:
I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I...
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.
I was surprised to hear that a fragmentary version of the song was heard in 1933 in North Carolina, and then transcribed by John Jacob Niles (who paid $1.75 in silver quarters).
(Lyrics and history from A Kentucky Christmas.)
I'm curious about the contraction on'ry in line three. Since it originates in the US, I'm inclined to believe it means ornery (stubborn). (This would require the deletion of the post-vocalic r as well as the unstressed vowel in the second syllable.)
A definition of ornery traces it back to "ordinary."
There are not many references to the contraction, but a 1973 Waylon Jennings album is entitled Lonesome, On'ry, and Mean. I believe that this usage, also, is pointing toward ornery.
So, are you and I ornery, ordinary, or something else? If we're ornery, has the meaning shifted between Niles's usage in 1933 and Waylon Jennings' usage forty years later?