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Mostly Memories
The Colorful Language of Unsophisticated Rural Texas
Wednesday, August 20, 2008 • Posted August 20, 2008

“This old dog won’t hunt” and similar phrases are blended to the cultural language of the rural south and without them our proud Texas dialect would be “as bland as red beans without a chunk of salt pork.” The use of these localisms which perhaps astound many of the “cityfied” folk from away up yonder is, in fact, a pure delight to the oft referred to society of the “unwashed.”

Thinking along these lines I recently moseyed down to the corral of rural colloquialisms to look over some of the critters (idioms) and Texanisms that have been manufactured, roped and branded by lazy linguists of our unsophisticated society. Observing quite a few of them that have for years been “rode hard and put up wet” I decided to throw my lariat on some of them and drag them out for your inspection.

I sorta feel sorry for those aliens among us who understand not such Texanisms as dololly, whatchamacallet, dingfuddy or thinguhmugig which of course are expressions refering to that gadget sitting over there that I “kain’t fer the life ah me” think of it’s proper name at this time.

“Hells fire woman” I often say to my roommate, “you’ve been living in this dang state for a coon's age. Don’t you think it’s high time you should get to know what a “thingamawhichit” is? When are you going to learn to talk like a Texan, or at least learn to understand Texas talk?” It isn’t a foreign language you know, and furthermore at this particular time I am not trying to pull your leg.

Instead of trying to learn that a dingfuddy is something I am pointing at, or answering my questions such as “how’djewdoit” or “whykantchee” she will most likely say “how do you spell that?”

She acually got her first introduction to some of our coloful and unsophisticated rural talk while driving to Texas in 1948 and listening to the Don McNeal’s early morning Welcome Travelers radio show. Don was interviewing a fellow from Texas and asked him where he was from.

“I’m from Plum Nelly, Texas” the man said.

“I don’t believe I have ever heard of that town” said Don, “just where is it located?”

“Well” said the Texan talking like a man who had his plow out of the ground, “if you’r agonna ask me where it’s at I’ma gonna tell you that it’s plumb out of Ft. Worth and nelly to Dallas.”

After being in Texas for all these years Alma has not yet accepted such expessions “That ole girl’s no bigger’n a bar of soap after a good day’s wash” and “she’s got a face that would make a freight train take a dirt road”. She also frowns upon being asked if “she has a clod in her churn” when she is upset.

While she has become accustomed to slang such as how cum, howsaboutit, I couldatoldja, whatchewdoin, and whydon’tcha yet when I ask her to come help me with some task requiring more than two hands she is still inclined to ask “how do you spell that, or, do you need hep or help?”

Looking backward to the days of my youth I can recall the use of words like “dad burn it”, “ya durn tooten”, “stinking on it”, “shoot fire”, “goldurn” and many others as the nearest we were allowed to come to real profanity. However in our attempts to out cuss a sailor or a mule skinner we very oft times slipped into the use of a real cuss word or two.

At our Domino Club we don’t cotton much to the use of sophisticated language we lean more to old and familiar cliches. For instance the morning greeting of “howyadoin?” is most likly to receive the reply of “fair to middlin”.however when the oldest member of the club is in one of his grouchy moods he is likely to say “It’s none of your damned business, and if you wasn’t such a good friend of mine I wouldn’t have told you that much..”

Before signing off on this short visit to the language corral of rural culture read this description of a true perfectionist by Don Meredith: “If Tom Landry was married to Racquel Welch he’d expect her to cook.”

Now - if the good Lord is willing and the creeks don’t rise I will see you next week.

    ******

FOOTNOTE: AUTHOR’S NOTE;

I often use Prologs and Epilogs to sort of dress up a short column and so it is with the following home spun tale that begins with this:

PROLOG::

At my ancient age I suffer from a loss of hearing which distresses my wife when at meal time she has to walk through two hallways to reach my computer roost in the back bedroom to tell me that lunch or dinner is ready. I kept telling her that she needed a cow bell to ring that I would be able to hear when she rang it from the kitchen. Not being able to find a cow bell a friend gave her a small whistle which I could occasionally hear when she whistled from the first hallway and would holler “OK I’m a-coming”.

THE STORY

The other morning while on my electric horse spreading fertilizer on my back yard I kept hearing a bird whistling. As I continued to work I kept hearing that strange whistle and wondered what kind of bird that could be.

As I approached our back porch the whistle grew louder and I thought that the bird must be in the tree above the porch. Soooo- when glancing up into the tree to locate the bird who should I see but my wife standing there on the porch blowing that dang little whistle. She motioned for me to come closer and in a very angry voice she yelled “Bill I’ve been blowing this whistle for the last ten minutes and you would never look up,and I need you to help me.”

I said “Well hellsfire honey, I thought that was a bird whisltling” and nearly fell off my horse a-laughing. I will now end my story with this

Epilogue

Now I thought this incident was funny as the devil but I’m a-telling you folks — that wife of mine was madder than an old wet hen and she expressed her feelings by hitting me right square dab in the face with that famous old phrase from the Fibber McGee and Molly Show “Tain’t funny, McGee.”

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