[Note: Sense 1a incorporates former entry cooter up]
cooter v, hence vbl n cootering Also cuter, kewter [Prob Scots, nEngl dial: cf SND cuiter, coot(h)er “Often used with up. . . To nurse back to health ; to pamper , fuss over; . . To coax, to wheedle; . . ‘To mend, patch, put to rights’” and queeter “To work lazily . . , waste time. . . Appar. a . . variant of cuiter.” See also EDD couther “To comfort by the aid of refreshment and warmth; to cure by the use of remedies” and Concise Ulster Dict. cootered “Spoilt, Pampered.” Sense 3 may have developed partly through association with cooter n 1. Sense 4 is hard to relate to the others and is perh an entirely separate word.] chiefly S Midl
1 a trans, usu with up: To contrive, mend, tinker up; also fig: stir up.
1848 Greensborough Patriot (Greensboro NC) 27 May /1, The truth is, we presume, that the Nominee and his advisory council—aware of the desperate condition of their old issues before the people of North Carolina—determined at once to cooter up this new issue for the occasion. 1969 DARE FW Addit AL, Cooter up the fire [ˈkudər] means to stir up, warm up; and down south where I come from we also talk about cooterin’ up the girls. 2003 in 2020 DARE File—Internet swWA, It’s one of the best sources on the internet for stuff in general. Especially when “Jerry-riggin,” “Backyard Billyin,” or “Cooterin” something. 2016 Ibid cPA, I lost the clip to the chain connector . . no one had one so I took a really fine piece of wire and cootered it up that way.
b intr: To engage in contriving or repairing; to tinker (with something).
1853 Greensborough Patriot (Greensboro NC) 14 May /2, It is said that there was some genuine locofoco cootering on the part of the Soule clique to get Slidell in. 1891 Perley From Timber Town 73 sIL, Then mother, . . she stud up an’ anser’d. . , thet ef “Yankees tinker’d an’ cooter’d” ter make work com’ e’sier fur ther wimmin fokes . . she’d jis like ter see a passel uv ’em roun’ thet ar house. 1894 Reading Times (PA) 21 Feb /3 wNC, A patchin’ up thish yer old cabin keeps my mind pestered long o’ them thar days. . . Hyur I is a cootering eroun’ ole Farner’s cabin fur Arizony, ez wuz ter a married me. 1975 Greenville News (SC) 25 Dec 21/1, It is one of dozens of mechanical projects he “cooters” or tinkers with at his home here. 1991 TriQuarterly 82.40 KY, I’d been cootering with the Mustang transmission all afternoon, because I needed to go make some sales demonstrations in Nicholasville.
2 usu with around: To work in a desultory or ineffective manner; to idle about.
1887 Carpenter S.-Co. Neighbors 107 sRI, I would n’t tho’t one on ’em [=Irish people] could airn fo’pence-ha’penny a day. I calc’lated they was jest fit ter cooter ’round. 1919 Herald & Tribune (Jonesborough TN) [15 May 5]/2, R. L. Haire . . spent Saturday at home “cootering” around. During the day he mowed the yard, fed the pigs and carried a load of stove wood for his wife. 1932 Randolph Ozark Mt. Folks 240, Sometimes I’d jest kinder cooter round ’mongst th’ women an’ kids, answerin’ questions an’ gittin’ acquainted with folks. 1938 Charlotte News (NC) 4 Nov /4, Major [Afred Lee] Bulwinkle was in Mecklenburg, he explained, “just cootering around,” among the citizens. 1966–69 DARE (Qu. A10, [What do you call] doing little unimportant things) Infs KY20, NC34, Cootering around. 2003 in 2020 DARE File—Internet wNC, A note about the pig-pickin’—in years past my uncle had taken a reasonably hands-on role in mixing the barbecue sauce and generally cootering around with his buddies cooking the pig.
3 with var advs: To walk in an unhurried manner, saunter, “mosey”; also fig.
1913 Kephart Highlanders 203 sAppalachians, In every settlement there is somebody who makes a pleasure of gathering and spreading news. . . It amused me to record the many ways he had of announcing his mission by indirection. . . “I’m jes’ broguin’ about.” “Yes, I’m jest cooterin’ around.” “I’m santerin’ about.” 1932 Randolph Ozark Mt. Folks 136, Wal, sir, there warn’t nothin’ he could do ’bout it, fur’s he could see, so he jest cootered ’long home. Ibid 269, I don’t mind tellin’ you-all now that we jest cootered ’long through a turrible hard lesson. 1933 AmSp 8.1.36 Ozarks, The time may come, according to this informant, when the old names will be lost entirely, and one will “jest cooter into th’ store an’ pick out a quilt by sight, same as we do dress-goods.” 1938 Field & Stream 43.86 MO, So I cootered along , takin’ my time. 1952 Brown NC Folkl. 1.529 wNC, Cooter around: . . To travel aimlessly. 1972 Cooper NC Mt. Folkl. 90, Cooter around—to walk aimlessly or idly. 1987 Young Latchpins 84 ceTN (as of 1920s–1930s), Morefield Hopson cootered over to where Fonzer was meditating. 1991 Appalachian Jrl. 18.197 swNC (as of c1925), “Hydy,” said the bearded stranger. “Seen yore fire . . last night and I watched you’ns a spell. I seen you didn’t need no he’p, so I cootered on back to my old woman.”
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1966 DARE (Qu. Z14a, To give a child its own way, or to pay too much attention to it: “Everyone _____that child.”) Inf AL4, Cooter [ˈkutər]. 2005 Williams Gratitude 504 wNC (as of 1940s), Kewter to: (cue’-ter) “cater” to every whim, as to spoil a baby. She kewtered to it, and grabbed it up ever’ time it cried. If a man let a woman lead him around (tell him what to do), he was kewterin’ to her.