We have had learned discussions before about the so-called Southern dialect and about how there are many “Southern dialects.”
This is not about that. This is about how families or other groups will gradually work new words or non-words into their vocabularies. A few examples:
When my daughter, an economics professor, was, oh, 3 or 4 years old, she called Saturday “Satury.” So, in our house, ever since then, the day that comes after Friday is “Satury.”
My son, a geologist, came up with “comptable.” For instance, he never slept one wink in a car. We’d be going from here to Frontier Country, hoping he would go to sleep. No. He’d say, “I can’t get “comptable.” He’d put blankets over the rear window to shut out the light. Still not “comptable.” He’d try to stretch out, his feet bothering his sister, who’d be as far from him as she could get, quietly reading a book. “I need to stretch out. I can’t get ‘comptable.’”
You know the routine: “If I hear one more peep out of you, I’m going to stop this car, etc.”
Likewise, the members of our coffee group have learned and adopted new words, most of which were contributed by one of our members who is very up to date on medical terms and medicines, Dr. Whoopee.
It is well known that he is one of the leading prostrateologists in the country. He has taught us a lot about that troublesome organ. Prostrate glands cause trouble everywhere. Up in Frontier Country, many men have prostrate problems.
You see a lot on TV about testosterone. Dr. Whoopee doesn’t know about that, but he is quite familiar with “testerone.”
My middle grandson, the one at UNC, made his contribution to our commonly used word list when he was 3 or 4. He’d heard people say “right” at the end of a sentence. You know, “Auburn’s got a great football team, right?” For a period there, he’d end almost every statement with “wite?” So, here in our little cabin in Prestige Plaza, we always use that version when it’s called for. “You did get some peanut butter at the store, ‘wite’?”
Cousin Artie would use a word like this: “Auburn’s got a good football team, but you gotta ‘omit’ that Alabama’s is pretty good, too.” Yeah, I suppose you just gotta “omit” that (but it ain’t as good as we used to think).
In Frontier Country, Frigidaire was just a generic term for any electric ice box. It might be a Kelvinator or a Norge or a GE or a Westinghouse or whatever, but it was a, for instance, GE Frigidaire. Everybody knew that.
Speaking of that, we were lucky. We got electrified when I was barely 6 years old. The folks up in the northern part of the community didn’t get electricity ‘til about 10 years later. Grandma Boman was not anxious to get it at all, kind of afraid of it, and they had gotten along quite well, thank you, without it.
And when it did come, she thought it was way too expensive, so she’d unplug the refrigerator every night to save on the electric. It took a lot of convincing to break her of that habit.
Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org