One of my many hobbies is collecting and studying words and sayings that I recall hearing from my childhood. Most of these modes of expression are unique to the South and I was excited the other day when I learned that a new book has been published entitled "Dixie Dictionary, An Introduction to the Southern Language." Now the author of this book, Thomas Howard, a fellow Richmonder, doesn't just play with this hobby, he is a real student of Southern language and has been seriously studying the subject for nearly 30 years. Mr. Howard is a University of Richmond graduate and a former reporter and editor for the Richmond Times Dispatch. He has written for such publications as Fortune, Time, and Newsweek. We may not all agree with his definitions but he does know what he is doing.
Some of you may remember language from your childhood that has disappeared but I suspect most of you do not. It takes a long time for language to change and you probably haven't lived long enough for this to happen to you personally. The words I have chosen to share with you may give you some insight into your "roots" if you are a Southerner and it may prove helpful to transplants in understanding the region and the way we talk or talked a little better.
One of the interesting facts contained in the Introduction of the book is that linguists pretty much agree on certain principles of Southern language of which I was unaware.
1. Speech of the South's coastal areas resembles that of the eastern counties of Britain
2. Speech of the lower South is closer to London and the southern counties of Britain.
3. Hill country dialects have been compared to the north of Britain, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the brief ancestral lodging of the breed known as the Scotch-Irish.
I have chosen 25 words-phrases from the book. It's difficult to say why I picked the particular words that I did but I'm inclined to think my selections were based on some association with my background even though it may have been, in some cases, a sub-conscious process. Hope the listings bring a smile to your face and a glow in your heart. If I don't watch it I will start to talk like they did in years gone by. In the South, that is.
about give out- tired or exhausted
addle- to confuse
ain't got a lick of sense- stupid
amen corner- front row in church, place where devout kneel at a revival
all git out- to the extreme
ammonia coke- dash of ammonia in coke for headaches and anxieties
a'tall- at all
attaboy- praise, encouragement
backside of the moon- any place that is remote (dark side of the moon )
bad off- sick, poor
carried away- excited about something
chittlins- small intestines of hog eaten both fried and stewed
country mile- an indefinite distance
dinnah- dinner, usually the mid day meal
doodly squat- something of little or no value
good old boy- southern male who is in control and in the know
haint- (haunt) ghost
high sheriff- elected sheriff
hold your horses- calm down
mad money- money a girl takes on a date to get her home in case she gets mad with her escort