Sunday, July 16, 2006

Do you wrench it, chunk it or mash it?

Today I'm gonna chat about Southern expressions.

There are certain Southern words that I love. I use them all the time. But they're not known in all parts of the South. So at times I can be talking to someone from, say Atlanta, and they won't have a clue what I'm talking about, while someone from Mississippi will understand me completely.

At the same time, I'm pretty sure that Southerners have a habit of just making words up. I often wonder if I'm using a "real" word and then am always relieved when I finally hear someone else use it. Southerners make up the most wonderful expressions and words to describe things and most of the time it's a perfect fit.

I have several favorite words that I use on a fairly constant basis. Wrench it, Chunk it and Mash it. Now, if you don't know what I mean with these words, I'll make some examples for ya. All are basically "directional pulling" words for me. I mash a door shut. I chunk a handle up or down. I wrench a door open.

I also itch a scratch instead of scratch an itch and I'm always "fixin to" get to something, yah, I'm fixin to get to it "right quick".

The sky looks dark and it looks like "it's fixin' to fuss up".

At times I have to drive "right far" to get somewhere. "Right close" can be around the corner or 15 miles away. Depends on who's giving directions. Old timers tend to think 1/2 a day is close by.

Where I'm from we use the word "Booger" a lot. When someone's a pain or a machine isn't working right... they're a booger. "That engine's being a dern nasty booger about starting today". Find some other place where an adult can say booger with a straight face!

But it's not just Southernisms I love. I love distinct expressions from other regions.

I will tell ya'll that I adore Yiddish words. It does throw off my Southern-ism a bit when I'm talking to someone and use the words Ya'll, mash, and then Schmuck in the same sentance. I think the Yiddish language has "expressionism" down pat, even more than the Southern-isms. You know EXACTLY what is being said, good or bad. I've worked with quite a few people that use the Yiddish expressions all the time and I've soaked those into my brain for life.

British expressions... Love them! They all just sound amusing. Even an insult brings a smile. I use those too. There does tend to be confusion when a Southerner and a Brit have a conversation though... between the accents and the manner in which a certain word is used... It can cause hilarity or cause someone to get the gun out from under the rug.

Now on to an interesting tidbit here, courtesy of National Geographic. For years I have heard that accents are going away all across the country because we travel so easily and all watch the same television shows, etc. etc. I do know that I pop over the Alabama line often and visit Atlanta and it's hard pressed to find a Southern accent there.

Well, according the National Geo, except for the major cities... America is clinging hard to it's regional accents.

That I'm happy about. I would hate to see the world homogenized into one "non-accent". How dull would that be?

I think it's great we're holding tight to our heritage here in the South.


I'm not actually making any sort of point here today, I'm just nattering on about words and their beauty. They're all so fun! I think words are great and I love hearing wording that's exclusive to a certain area. It helps identify people or just make where they're from sound more interesting to others.

So if you run into the Piggly Wiggly and you hear someone kvetching under their breath, threatening to get something "quicker than you can skin a catfish", and finishing the sentance with "by Crikey", you probably have just run into Idgie!

(Slightly re-written and re-printed from last year.)