Living in the South, we’re blessed with a diversity of language, some of it actually permissible in mixed company. For those who don’t understand, well, bless their cotton-pickin’ hearts.
My grandpa used to call food “groceries” whether it was store-bought or from the garden. He’d come in the house when we’d visit (which was a lot; Nanny and Grandpa were only about a mile away) and say, “Are you eatin’ my groceries?” I sometimes find myself doing the same … but Luke doesn’t giggle like my brothers and I did. I’m sure if cats could roll their eyes, he would.
Eyes rolling or not, favorite words and phrases are still rolling in.
Sarah Ricard, a native Texan (but we’ll forgive her for that) and fellow blogger I mentioned last week, had a few more favorites, including bamboozle, and her son’s favorite, plumbum (the Latin word for lead).
After posting my blog entry to her Facebook page, she received two more suggestions: scofflaw and schlep. “I say schlep all the time. I think I got it from watching The Nanny back in the day; it’s not part of a Texan’s usual vocabulary,” she told me.
And now Fran Drescher’s cackle is in my head.
Sarah also offered other words and phrases that are quintessentially Southern, and ones I have the tendency to use quite a bit. “My dad says, ‘I’m plum tuckered out’ and ‘gullywasher’ (heavy rain). My grandmother used to say ‘cattywampus,’ and I’ve been known to let out an occasional ‘shucky darn and slop the hogs.’
OK, so I don’t say “shucky darn,” but I’m plum tuckered out a lot these days.
Dick Price, who cracks me up on a regular basis in comments on the blog, offered two unique entries: “Bunggorn—to be inoperative, broken; ‘The tee-vee is bunggorn, it’s gone all squiggly.’”
The other word: “Nackyum—usually white cloth or paper square useful for mopping up sticky sorghum or polishing skeeters off eyeglasses after motorcycle excursion; a napkin; ‘Sayruh Lynn, you might use yore nackyum lest folks thank yore a savage.’”
Yes, it’s wildly grammatically incorrect, but it’s also pretty darned funny.
From Sharon Williams came a couple of sayings that were very evocative: “One came from a Yankee living in Little Rock: ‘I am as busy as a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest!’ I still can’t stop laughing at that one … I suppose because it is so visual.”
I’m right there with you, Sharon.
“The other comes from Long Island, Bahamas, where we visit often and have many friends. It is way down south … 🙂 When you are visiting with someone, they will say: ‘I gotta go so I can come.’ After several years of this, we realized what they meant was that they had to go so that they could return again in the near future. Funny! They have teased me about my use of the word tump, so I suppose we are even!”
Lynda Kerr commented on the interactive map from Slate I talked about last week, saying, “I am quite amused by Virginia’s word: ‘might could.’ I am a native Arkie, but was working on a software project in Virginia a few years ago. The customer asked for a solution for a particularly persnickety problem, and I answered, ‘Wellllllllll (drawing it out in true Southern fashion), I might could …’ That was as far as I got. They died laughing. When I asked what they found so funny, it was ‘might could,’ which they (both natives of Virginia) had never heard!”
Speaking of, if anyone from Rhode Island is reading, please explain how a milkshake became a cabinet.
Andi Ellington reminisced about family: “My granny, who spent her most of her life in little towns that are now under Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo, then in Crane, outside Springfield, used to say she got ‘a good do’ on her pies, or cakes, etc. I find myself using it now and then when I am particularly proud of some dish I made! One of my uncles, also a Missourian, would say ‘h’it don’t make no nevermind!’ if one of us kids fell down or got in trouble, or really for almost anything … and it would always bring a smile and make the hurt hurt a little less!”
In another email, Andi wrote: “During my last visit with my mom, brother and sister, my-sister-the-vegan-in-the-family made kohlrabi with dinner. That reminded my mom that, back in the day, when someone was ill, people would often they had the “cold robbies”—figure that one out! Our nearest guess what they had seen kohlrabi written in a book but, like many words they read back then, it was that they had never heard spoken, so figured it must be some sort of illness, like ague.”
A mystery email contributor (if only I knew your name) commented on “a good scald,” mentioned in last week’s column: “I think you will find that the expression ‘good scald’ was used when a pig (or hog) had been dipped in hot water and then, while being scraped, the hair would come out by the roots. Makes better ‘cracklings’ or pork rinds: no hair follicles in the mouth. My father, who was born in 1901, used to dip his finger in the water three times without burning himself and he knew then that the temperature was just right. Also, an expression he brought with him when he moved from Tennessee in 1928 to Arkansas, and which emphasizes stinginess, was that a person would ‘skin a gnat for its tallow.’”
I’ve got some gnats hovering around my bananas if anyone wants to skin ’em.
A couple more contributions that came in are distinctly non-Southern … unless it’s Southern Great Britain. Perspective editor Karen Martin offered a favorite from the English version of House of Cards, “uttered often by Francis Urquhart, prime minister of Great Britain … whenever a pesky member of the press asks him one of those ‘Isn’t it true that …’ questions: ‘You might very well think that. I couldn’t possibly comment.’”
Can you imagine an American politician saying that? The proper grammar alone might horrify most of them.
Finally, Peggy Whitt last year took a trip with one of her daughters that I would love to take, what she called their version of a Jane Austen pilgrimage through the U.K.
In that spirit, she channeled a very Austen-esque critique of the GOP presidential field: “I’m unequivocally vexed with the supercilious discourse and lack of propriety demonstrated by the Republican presidential prospects—I find no genius or wit among them at all!”
I think that’s pretty much true of politicians in general. Aaaand now I’m depressed again.
This has nothing to do with words, but it does have to do with politicians. Then again, maybe it is, since the meanings of words seem to be ignored or changed completely.
Those who know me know I’m not a fan of Kim Davis and the trumped-up religious-freedom fight in Kentucky, or the claims of persecution that make a mockery of people who are being tortured or killed for their beliefs. Tuesday, I saw a meme that pretty much summed up my feelings on the subject.
She could just do the job she was elected to do, for which she receives far more than the average person in Rowan County earns. Or she could resign, as other clerks, including one here in Arkansas, did.
Oh, but then that would take away from her fledgling martyrdom … never mind. What was I thinking?