Colloquialisms — A colloquialism is a manner of phraseology or speaking that is peculiar to a region. In this case, I’m speaking of only a few of the many colloquialisms of Arkansas and Mississippi. I am hoping my readers will add to my stash of such in their comments. I don’t know if I really need to explain these, but I will, just in case someone not from the South wants to know.
That dog won’t hunt, or I don’t have a dog in that fight, is what you say when someone’s idea or comment is just plain wrong. For example, someone living in the south but born in the North, whose ancestors arrived in America in 1910, might be accused of being a Yankee. A Yankee, in the South, is a loaded or derogatory term referring to those who fought on the side of the North in the Civil War. However, a Northerner who has lived happily in the South for a long time, but whose ancestors arrived long after the Civil War, might say, “You’re wrong; I don’t have a dog in that fight.”
That’s as handy as a pocket on a shirt is self-evident. It can refer to any handy or good idea, to another’s solution to a problem, to some creative and handy invention, or to any number of things. It is a compliment.
Sounds like a frog caught in a bob wire fence in a hurricane means that it sounds loud and very bad. Used typically to refer to the singing (or croaking) of a guy who can’t really sing.
Deep enough to swim a horse means a body of water or a stream is deep enough so that a horse would have to start swimming. My stepfather, Ed Frank, may have gotten this phrase from his birthplace in Oklahoma. These things get passed around. Maybe someday I will have an opportunity to use it. So far not.
Druthers is used as a noun meaning “preference.” “That’s not my druthers” means “I’d rather not.” It’s based on the word “rather.” We also say, “I druther not.”
I’d druther be a big frog in a little pond than a little frog in a big pond.” This has been used as a valid argument by some of my Baptist friends who have become Methodist.
Incorrect pronunciation can be highly entertaining – or embarrassing, if it’s you doing the mispronouncing.
Dennis Jackson called Prysock’s Dock a funny name. Prysock’s Dock, a country store on Lake Chicot north of Lake Village, was called by Mr. Dennis “Mr. Peroxide’s place.”
My stepfather, or Pop, was corrected for his mispronunciations by my mother. Finally, Pop had enough. He said to her, “Martha, there is absolutely nothing wrong with my pronounce-iation.” She yielded, of course.
I used to pronounce the word chamelion as “sha-melion” instead of correctly as “ka-melion.” I thought Webster just made a mistake until I was disabused of that notion by several other people who caught me at it.
Deliberate use of bad grammar can be a means of making a point, being colorful, or simply because one doesn’t know any better.
Ain’t is a contraction of “am not,” “is not,” “have not,” “has not,” or “are not.” It is supposed to have come from Elizabethan England, and was maintained in use by the hill people of Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas. And many other states. The British still use it, according to Webster. The bane of American English teachers, and still considered substandard English, nevertheless it has long been used and is now considered correct English for informal or familiar speech, or for the purpose of rhetorical emphasis. An example would be the song, “Ain’t She Sweet.” Years ago, a kid said to a White Sox player who had been caught cheating in a baseball game, “Say it ain’t so, Jimmy, say it ain’t so.” Southerners are not so particular. We use it in a myriad of ways considered to be substandard English, so that “ain’t,” though tolerated, will never be rid of its country stigma. (That’s why we like it.) As for our use of ain’t, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. We truly like to use bad English. We call it talking country and we’re proud of it. Many white Southerners can slip easily into Black English if they want to.
I ain’t done it! I didn’t do it! Also, If you done done it, it ain’t braggin’. This was said by Dizzy Dean, a great baseball pitcher years ago in Mississippi. Gonna is used instead of “going to.” Wanna is used instead of “want to.” We got a million ub’em, y’all. I seen, I done, or I come is used instead of “I saw,” “I did,” or “I came.”
But enough! Perhaps no more should be said about Southern speech. As it is, it will live forever in the writings of Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and many others. I can’t do it justice here. Also, to non-Southerners, we want to be able to continue to say stuff like “Y’all ain’t from ‘round heah, is you?” or “You might be a redneck if….” If you really want to learn how we speak, just go online and search for “funny Southern colloquialisms” and you’ll probably get more than you bargained for. Also, be warned, many of them aren’t said in polite company. Quite a few of them are downright vulgar, or worse. Elegantly so, many of us secretly think!