From the creator of the unforgettable Casey Jones
Mark Twain wrote that Southerners speak music, and in Katy Munger's Bad to the Bone, the tune begins in the opening pages. There's no missing that Casey Jones and Bobby D. are Southern. It's something about their cadence, their drawl, and the expressions they use that give them away. What makes Southern English special? Almost everything. Common words sound a little less so when a Southerner says them. The South's favorite pie is PEE-can, Southern radios run on BAT-trees, and few Southerners have any use for the letter r. And Southerners are justly famous for colorful expressions like "He's so bucktoothed he could eat corn-on-the-cob through a keyhole!" or "You ain't just whistlin' Dixie!"
But one of the most interesting features of Southern English is its vocabulary. Southerners regularly use words that aren't common--or aren't used at all--in other parts of the United States. Some of these words entered the language with the Spanish, French, African or Native American people that settled in the region. Other words are simply archaic English forms that, like many Southerners themselves, came to the U.S., settled in isolated regions, and held on as the world changed around them.
Most Americans are familiar with words like y'all, the plural form of you, or hankering, a desire or wish. Fewer know that right means very, ill means angry, or that a polecat is a skunk. Some of the South's more interesting words appear below. To test your Southern I.Q., see if you can choose the correct definition for these words. If you're stumped, the answers appear at the bottom of the page.
1. Haint is a: (a) ghost, (b) form of ain't, (c) small amount of something.
2. Clever folks are: (a) intelligent, (b) sarcastic, (c) hospitable.
3. A Yamacraw is a: (a) bird, (b) person of low character, (c) person new to something.
4. Dope is: (a) marijuana, (b) soda, (c) information.
5. Goobers are: (a) gardening shoes, (b) nerdy boys, (c) peanuts.
6. An icehouse is a (a) tavern, (b) convenience store, (c) walk-in refrigerator.
7. Fixing means: (a) repairing, (b) thinking, (c) preparing.
8. To tote the mail is to: (a) run away quickly, (b) carry something for someone, (c) adhere to the party line.
9. If you tump something, you (a) throw it away, (b) knock it over, (c) dent it.
10. A Yankee Dime is (a) a penny, (b) an insult, (c) a kiss.
11. A poke is a: (a) pen for livestock, (b) sack, (c) jab or thrust.
12. A toboggan is a: (a) special hat, (b) type of sled, (c) small knife.
13. Boll weevils are: (a) pests that infests cotton, (b) people who take advantage of others, (c) conservative Democrats.
14. Bugtussle refers to: (a) a remote area, (b) a traffic jam, (c) a fight
15. Polk sallet is: (a) animal, (b) vegetable, (c) mineral.
Answers: 1-A, 2-C, 3-B, 4-B, 5-C, 6-A and B, 7-C, 8-A, 9-B, 10-C, 11-B, 12-A, 13-C, 14-A, 15-B
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