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Monday, July 28, 2014

English with the bark on it

Posted Wednesday, October 24, 2007, at 8:20 PM

Monday night's Stoddard County Historical Society meeting in Bloomfield dealt with a topic near and dear to my heart - dialect! I absolutely love to hear the different forms of English spoken across the country! These are the things that make each region unique. I know that the presence of television is whittling away at those regional dialects, but I don't believe they're much in danger of disappearing completely. At least, I hope not.

Jim and Sue Mayo teamed up at the historical society meeting to give us a sample of Southeast Missouri dialect, as it appeared to Caleb Brown Crumb in and around the year 1860 (which, as we all know, was the Civil War era). Crumb was an educator from New York, as I understand it, and he came to Bloomfield school in 1859 to teach at the "new academy," as Mayo described it. He has quite a colorful history himself, as he was once threatened by the Bushwhackers (Confederate vigilantes), who wanted to kill him.

Crumb was interested in dialect, and, since he had grown up elsewhere, he could hear the differences in the English spoken around here and his "native" English. Thus, he attempted to set down all the unique words and phrases which he heard around him.

The Mayos read about 70 words that Crumb had gathered for his book, which Sue said was really a "pamphlet." I think it was entitled "The Dialect of Southeast Missouri." In her email to us, Anita Peters said that the book was compiled in 1906. Sue read the New York version, and Jim would respond with the Southeast Mo. version. I was surprised by how many of these old words and phrases are still in use.

I'll give you some examples; then, for the sake of history, you can feel free to add to the list.

New York/ Southeast Missouri

egg.............................."aig"

tobacco juice...................."ambeer"

seat near pulpit in church......."Amen corner"

beyond..........................."apast" (The dog went apast him.)

ask.............................."ax"

Baptist.........................."Baptiss"

to trade........................."banter"

to swap knives..................."Barlow" (brand name of cheap knife)

Highway.........................."Big Road"

blacktop........................."hard road" (added by person at meeting)

born............................."borned"

quick-tempered..................."brash"

plough (plow)...................."break ground"

come and see....................."come by"

climbed.........................."cooned"

a long time......................"a coon's age"

skillet cornbread................"dodger"

cover............................"kiver"

a long time......................"till the cows come home"

Missourians......................"Pukes" (???)

to back out......................"crawfish"

cockleburr......................."cuckleburr"

tease............................"devil"

resemble........................."favor"

appropriate......................"fittin' to wear"

disappear........................"fly the coop"

foreigner........................"furiner"

worn............................."frazzled"

become spiritual................."get religion"

peanut..........................."goober"

neck............................."goozle"

going to (gonna)................."gwin"

held............................."helt"

to hesitate......................"hem and haw"

it..............................."hit" (as in "Hit don't matter")

pork............................."hog meat"

empty-handed....................."hold the bag"

How do you do?..................."Howdy"

hush............................."hesh"

Some interesting conversations were held concerning some of the words. For example, local historian and colorful character Joe Brown explained that "Hit" was perfectly acceptable at the beginning of a sentence, but "it" was used further on in the sentence.

Jim pointed out that the word "pork" was never used in the South. It was always "hog."

When we talked about the "Big Road," someone remembered that the first black top roads were referred to as the "hard roads."

I was confused by the conversation about the word "puke," as in "Missouri Pukes." I had heard the phrase "Georgia Crackers," but several of us at the meeting were unfamiliar with the term "puke." Anita Peters wondered if it had something to do with an Indian tribe which used to live in Missouri. No one ever came up with an answer for this.

I guess I hadn't realized that words and phrases introduced into the language as far back as 1860 could still be a part of our language. How on earth could a foreigner -- oops -- "furiner" -- be expected to master an English language so full of dialects?

I myself never realized how much dialect I used until I had to teach with a foreign exchange student in the class. I found that practically everything coming out of my mouth is dialect. I may write Standard English, but I speak dialect.

Paul Corbin, our 93-year-old Advance historian, calls our Southeast Missouri dialect "English with the bark on it." I guess that's because it's "unpolished."

Any quaint sayings to add to the list? Now's the time to record them.


Comments
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Found another one on one of Corey's stories: "out of pocket."

-- Posted by goat lady on Fri, Dec 7, 2007, at 7:22 AM

I have another colloquialism from this region - to go off "half-cocked." Cool expression!

-- Posted by goat lady on Fri, Dec 7, 2007, at 6:55 AM

All the words that you described might be from s.e Mo. but you will never find friendly people or more compassion in the whole world.

-- Posted by rusty nail on Sat, Oct 27, 2007, at 6:02 AM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
You are certainly right about that, Rusty Nail! It doesn't take fancy language to be a good person.

Hey FJ guy-this one I know. A "peckerwood" is real poor white trash.

I think it has something to do with woodpeckers having red feathers on their head and being considered loud and useless,no offense to any redheaded readers.

I have a confession, I love Harold Bell Wright and I think I've read all his books. I don't know where,but I do remember reading peckerwood and thinking it was funny.

I've heard redneck started with striking miners and also that many farm hands (especially more fair complexions)would have a redneck from field work. I'm not sure which is correct.

-- Posted by Yellow Rose of Essex on Fri, Oct 26, 2007, at 7:27 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Yes, YR, I think you're right about "peckerwood." My husband used it as a general insult (always expressed privately) to describe people who had done something he thought was really stupid. Example: "That peckerwood set the woods on fire!" I could tell that he got it from his father and his people, country folks, who (as a matter of fact) grew up around ESSEX!! Hahaha! So, Yellow Rose, I'm sure you have heard it!

MD, since you mentioned peckerwood, you might be interested to know that Walter Lantz, the creator of Woody Woodpecker, had a vacation cabin on the Rogue River in Grants Pass, Oregon. The cabin was at the end of a gravel road named Peckerwood Lane.

BTW, what is peckerwood slang for?

-- Posted by FJGuy on Fri, Oct 26, 2007, at 7:05 PM

And red neck, where did that term come from. Not where you think, I bet.

-- Posted by I.B. Le Truth on Thu, Oct 25, 2007, at 8:14 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Wikipedia has the most fascinating information on rednecks! It even gets into a discussion of the Hatfields and McCoys as examples of rednecks. I didn't know that the term was originally used to describe the Irish and Scots-Irish, though.

I found some other neat names to call someone: lint head, clay eater, peckerwood (my husband's personal favorite).

Must cut this fascinating conversation short and go get the shotgun....The coyotes are a little too close for comfort!

You can still buy a zinc sink. But you better be ready to open your wallet big big time. But it will last for generations.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Thu, Oct 25, 2007, at 7:15 PM

I must say that this truly amuses me, and is a WONDERFUL topic. I, too, write correct english, but speak the complete opposite. When my husband moved here from New York in 1995, I giggled at many of the words he said.

For example...

Bra (in his terms w/ "a" being "ah") and me saying bra (as in braw and some say brawl)

Then you have the ever popular English teacher sayin that "ain't ain't a word"... that one always cracked me up in school.

Then you have gotta instead of have to, as in I gotta go to the store, instead of I have to go to the store.

But what is more amusing still is the fact that, 12 years later, my husband speaks more "hick" than I do! Oh, and to add to future southern dialect, I have created a phrase that, to me, sounds much more polite than the previous terms used...and maybe it only sounds more polite b/c I am a redneck, but instead of afro-engineer, or the other term I wouldn't ever use, I say I'm going to "redneck-it"

Oh, and before I forget, I have always wondered where in the world older folks got the word zinc from sink. My dad once told me it was b/c sinks were once made from zinc...can you clear this up for me?

-- Posted by mrsdolphin on Thu, Oct 25, 2007, at 10:33 AM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
I checked the American Dialect Society site and discovered two possible explanations for the zinc/sink debate. The word "zinc" was used back in England and then seems to have come across the ocean to Baltimore - more so than anyplace else. One explanation is the same as your father's - Early sinks were galvanized, or made with zinc. However, the word is also connected with the German language. I don't know much German, so I can't confirm this, but the word does sound a little German.

On the "'ain't' isn't a word" debate, I never taught that it wasn't a "word." It certainly IS a word, and it may have its roots in Queen Elizabeth's England, since some Elizabethan English was brought over to the New World - and some of the English settled in Appalachia, where they were isolated enough to retain the original language.

Fascinating idea, what?

However, "ain't" is now classified as "Illiterate English"...and who wants to be considered "illiterate"??

I love this topic!

When I went "up North" to college, I was mocked for my dialect,even though my grammar was correct,my accent amused them.

The professors even snickered,because as we know,everyone with a Southern accent must be an uneducated hillbilly.

I tried to shrug it off and I said,"Well, we would laugh at your accent back home too".

Here is my "Guess You Must Not Be From Around Here"

If you say-"wash cloth" instead of "warsh rag" (or warshers,warshing macheen)

If you say "Viaduct" instead of vi-dock-(like the Hwy 25 vi-dock over 60 at Dexter)

If "How much do you have left to do?" isn't "How much you like being done or just how much you like"(I guess they might mean lack also)

If "pregnant" is not pronounced "prag-nat".

If they say "Wal-Mart" instead of Wal-mark or Wal-marts (either acceptable in Essex)

Our accent is warm and friendly and reminds me no matter where our people originally came from,Southeast Missouri is our home. (Also,if you ever need to get rid of a telemarketer named Steve Jones who sounds like he is from New Delhi instead of New Madrid,trust me-he can't understand our accent,if'n y'all lernt ti talk liken you shud).

-- Posted by Yellow Rose of Essex on Thu, Oct 25, 2007, at 9:06 AM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Oh, my! I just realized that I say "Vi-dock" and didn't even realize it was wrong!! Still, the way my mind is slipping, I may have known that at one time... The phrase "I've forgotten more than you'll ever know" is becoming more and more a reality in my life...

There have been two times when I suffered "persecution" for my dialect. One was when I went off to college at SOUTHEAST MISSOURI State and took a speech course, during which we natives had our accents pointed out in glaring terms - while our fellow students from St. Louis basked in Dr. Lorberg's eyes as FAVORED CHILDREN!

The other time was when we moved to Fairbanks, Alaska in 1969. As soon as I opened my mouth, they all crooned, "Ooooh, you're from the South, aren't you???" I always thought we were from the Midwest!

My theory is that our dialect either forces us home, or we learn to change it.

Just realized (after seeing I.B.'s goat-eating comment on another blog)- We have lots of country farm terms in our dialect, especially where pork/hogs are concerned. There's "hogwash," and "hog-tied," and "yelling like a stuck hog," just to name a few.

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Oct 25, 2007, at 6:10 AM

Well, Bringwine, I'd say you have this dialect "down pat"!

I like "kicked the bucket," as in "My 'ole dog done kicked the bucket!"

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Oct 25, 2007, at 6:01 AM

Madeline,

As a transplant myself, I remember being baffled at many of the words and/or phrases of this area. One that stands out is "liken to" or "liked to" as in, "I liked to never found that hammer," or "I liked to fall down that bottom step." I thought at first that this individual actually enjoyed falling down..that's how it sounded to me!

Another was "liken to," which meant nothing more than similar or "like." And one time was "onct" which made two times "twict."

"Fixin' to" was another phrase used instead of "getting ready to," and it's still commonly used of course.

"Reckon" is a big one also and still commonplace.

And how about the ever-popular "you'ins" and "ya'll." I'll never forget the first time I heard those.

And "sugar" for kisses...it's a Southern thing.

And "sweet tea."

And what's with prefixing so many words with "a" or "uh?" Example: I'm afixing to go to town, or I'm athinkin' 'bout it! They add an "a" in front of some words and then take them off of another..go figure!

Well, ya'll, I reckon there's aplently more where them come from, but seein' as how I liked to never got to sleep on account uh I drunk too much sweet tea afore bedtime las night,(dozed off onct or twict, then woke up agin,) I'm agonna turn in and call it a night. Sugars to ya'll.

-- Posted by bringwine on Wed, Oct 24, 2007, at 8:54 PM


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Madeline DeJournett
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net or by phone at 573-722-5322.
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