There’s good, then there’s larrupin’

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

One of the duties of an editor and columnist is to introduce readers to new and interesting words — words that work well but don’t necessarily get used by everyone.

This week’s word is larrupin’.

Some of you may know the word, but it’s surprising how many folks get a funny look on their face when I use it.

The official use of the word in writing came up for me several years ago while I was stationed well above the Mason Dixon Line in northwest Colorado. I had a writer from Oklahoma who used it in a piece. He was surprised that I knew how to use the word and so did a friend who grew up in south Texas. The assorted Californians, New Yorkers and mid-westerners gathered for office birthday cake that day had never heard it.

Had we taken the time to stop and look it up in that great big thick dictionary that we used to prop the back door open we would have found it as:

larruping adv (or adj) [fr. pres. part of larrup] dial Eng: in a way or of a kind to beat others: of notable quality or size: very (~ good baked ham)

Such a wonderful word right there in front of our noses and not in use north of Oklahoma City. None-the-less, the word has since been added to the spell-check dictionary on my computer.

I’ve always known the word as it was used in our family to describe food — especially rich desserts and things at family gatherings or church socials. We would say something like, “Grandma’s ice cream sure is larrupin’.”

To understand why grandma’s ice cream was larrupin’, let me explain how it was made. We’re talking whole milk and real cream here, folks. Ice cream was made most summer Sundays and holidays at my grandparents with an old-fashioned, wooden bucket, hand-cranked ice cream freezer.

We would crank it in the enclosed back porch or in the shade of the house outside. Anyone who has hand-cranked a freezer of ice cream knows it takes rock salt, lots of ice and muscle.

As the operation starts, the little kids can be involved, one sitting on a blanket thrown on top of the freezer and another cranking the handle. Other folks involved would set about breaking up the ice with a claw hammer — grandma froze it herself in whatever container she could find. As the ice cream began to freeze, the cranking got harder and the little ones gave way to those with a little more lead in their britches and muscle in their arm.

When it was done, the ice cream was a real treat and the crowning achievement in family cooperation. That was why it was larrupin’.

Also larrupin’ was the chocolate sheet cake that often accompanied the ice cream.

Also in the larrupin’ category was my other grandmother’s cherry cheesecake and her chocolate Coca-Cola cake.

One other food from my childhood I would describe as larrupin’ was my mother’s ham. It is a holiday tradition — a real ham with the bone and everything — that goes into the oven the night before. By 4 a.m. it starts to fill the house with the wonderful aroma and by 6 a.m. you have to get up and snitch a bite. Larrupin good!

I haven’t been able to track down the exact origin of this word, but I think it is probably Southern, somebody suggested maybe even Cajun. It could be Oklahoman — everybody I know from Oklahoma knows and uses the word.

Never mind where you hail from yourself, you too can put the word to use. The next time someone puts a bowl of homemade peach cobbler with hand-cranked ice cream in front of you, take a big bite then exclaim … “This cobbler is very larrupin’.”

Karl Terry is managing editor for the Portales News-Tribune. He can be contacted at 356-4483, ext. 33. His e-mail address is:

karl_terry@link.freedom.com