« Petzal: Be Careful in Bear Country | Main | Petzal: Notes on the Vomit-Colored Rifle »

August 14, 2008

This page has been moved to http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut

If your browser doesn’t redirect you to the new location, please visit The Gun Nut at its new location: www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut.

Bourjaily: Long-Lost Language

One of the small things I like about hunting is that it takes you into the countryside where people say things you thought no one actually says anymore.

Bits of old-fashioned speech hang on outside of town. Hearing them opens a little window into the past. For instance, I didn’t think anyone really said “cipherin’”  – as in “calculating” – in the 21 st century except for Jethro on “Beverly Hillbillies” reruns. Then I went to the Texas Hill Country on a pig hunt. It was very exciting, with the pig getting away from the dogs and chasing us until the dogs caught it again, and the pig practically deflating upon being stabbed with a very long, sharp knife. After the sticking, one of the two houndsmen wiped the blood off the blade and showed it to me. He had made it himself.  “I call this here the T2,” he said. “I been cipherin’ for 15 years on the perfect pig knife, and this is it.”

In Greene County, Illinois, where I turkey hunted 10 years ago, no one said “pop” or “soda;” it was “sody pop.”

Here in eastern Iowa, I heard my favorite. A farmer said to me: “That Amishman is so tight, he wouldn’t give a nickel to see an elephant jump over the courthouse.”

I’m glad to write these words and phrases down to help them linger on a little longer. Anybody else have one to share?


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Bourjaily: Long-Lost Language:


Jim in Mo.

My grandma will not use the word 'there', its yonder as in 'over yonder'.


"He's full of piss and vinegar".


My family had a few in common usage;

"I'm fixin' to go to the store".

"Watch out for your mother; she's ill today". (as in bad mood).

"Fair to partly cloudy". (response to "How you feelin'").

 Dr. Ralph

Moving from Indiana at 19 to Tennessee and having spent considerable time in Michigan and New York I consider myself an expert on the subject... Fixin in the South does not mean fixing anything. It means about to or ingredients. As in "I'm fixin to get the fixins". Any group of people depending upon location can be you guys, youse guys, y'all, you uns, youse uns, etc... really screwed me up when I first came down here and would say to a group "you guys want to get out of here?" Always the girl I was hitting on would say "do I look like a guy?" Soft drinks are different in every locale. RC's for everything down here, Cokes in Indiana, Pop in Michigan (where beer is always beers whether singular or plural) and Soda in NY. Cipherin by the way is short for decipher. Knew some folks in southern Indiana who always used road for way. We would say get out of the way they would say get out of my road or you're in my road. Lot's of slang for sex in different locales too, not that I would know anything about it..

Dave Petzal

In South Carolina, "I'll carry you down to the gas station," instead of take.

In Kentucky, "come hither to go yonder," meaning go one way in order to go another.


Similar to the posting by Jeff4066, "Fair to middlin'" was a common response to, "How are you?" in my hometown, and I was in college before it was really driven home that "holler" isn't proper English for "large ditch, etc..."

Blue Ox

I say 'youse' alot. I live 'over by dere'. I don't drink 'pop', I drink 'sodie'. And I like to munch on a 'sammitch' every now & again. Especially one with 'yardbird' in it. Them are 'the cat's ass'.
I could name a few more, but I been 'runnin into the ground' ever since the wife 'dropped the calf' the other day.
Chaos, panic & disorder I tell youse!!

Mike Diehl

'bout 'magin there are lots of interesting local linquistic anachronisms holding out in the countryside.

But I would not know about any of that because I'm from Away.


It's hard to say anything specific, living in rural Southern Alabama, as almost everything anyone says is anachronistic. So much so that a friend of mine from North Carolina came with me to a men's meeting down here and said, "These guys make me feel like a Yankee!"

I can tell you this, though. 'Y'all'= one person, 'All Y'all'= more than one person.

Will Becker

My old grandpa from the great state of Tennessee would ask me when I first started bow hunting as a young man,have yea got airy deer yet?

Dr. Ralph

I worked for a man in Tennessee that asked "whattaya liiike?" about three times so I shrugged my shoulders and said to him "p^$$y and beer" and he about died. He shook his head and muttered something about a damn Yankee while walking off. What do you lack was what he was saying really wanting to know what I had left to do to finish a project. Through local interpreters we finally began to understand each other.

Aaron Pape

Here in Wisconsin we say that we're going "up nort". and when telling something to someone, we say "doncha know". to anyone who knows what i'm talking about, can i get a "ya"?


"Why, if I did that thaid come down here 'n knock m' hat 'n th' crick!" and "I'll bet you a dollar to a dog turd 'n hold the stakes in my mouth that..."

Clay Cooper

All of this brings back old memories.

Today, with MTV to CNN has shaped today’s generation that has no ties to yesterday.

Hunting use to be a skill learned from Grandfathers past down to Grandsons. But now its shooting sticks, range finders, GPS units with occasional Elmer Fudd on the Outdoor Channel and Cabela's Trophy Bucks for Playstation 2 and Wii. All the shots are taboo past a stone’s throw, even with all the new supper magnums.

I remember all my friends and I would get together and a couple of us would be on the mountain Thursday night to pitch camp for those that couldn’t get off work until late Friday or later for Saturdays opening of season.

The good’ol days are no more

Fair to midlin, partly cloudy, little chance of rain thank you!
Hanging in dar like hair on a biscuit and everybody is trying to pick me off!

Today if I had a pick to hunt with any Outdoors TV personality, it would be Mr. Roger Raglin.

Now since I’m sure to piss off someone with this, “Have a nice day Y’ALL!”

About Long-Lost Language Clay Cooper has a point. It’s not just and language, it’s a way of life!


A couple that I remembered from a while back.

Well that's just slicker than socks on a rooster.

That dog was on that bird like white on rice


My wife is from western Illinois, a few counties over from Greene County, and to them everything was a "sody", 7UP or Sprite being white sody, Coke or Pepsi would be dark sody.

Jim in Mo.

Your wife is right-on! She grew up due east of me and in the heartland it was 'sody'. No pop and such. The boys from so. mo. would come up here and ask for pop. But here if you wanted sody you got white sody or black sody. Period.

Dr. Ralph

Yeah Clay, after three or four "do I look like a guy?" comments from hot women I switched from "you guys" to "y'all" quick and never looked back... priorities I tell you!

You is both singular and plural for some mysterious reason and so each region has developed its own version of the plural of you.

Clay Cooper

It drives my Wife nuts when I call some business to get insurance info on a person. I’ll say, I Cathy “HOW YOU…… listen I need a flavor!” Not, how are you today or good morning and can you do me a big favor. I deal with all the major insurance companies and for those I talked to before instantly remember me and don’t ask for out tax id or provider number etc. Wife says I can sale ice cubes to an Eskimo!

Clay Cooper

Dr. Ralph

Ready for season?

My bow is still dead on at 50 yards!


There are too many to list in Italian, especially southern Italy, like Naples.


When I moved to Wyoming back in '81 I learned about "cricks". You know the streams of water that are larger than a ditch but smaller than a river. Here they don't necessarily require the presence of water full time to qualify. In fact lots of the cricks are dusty much of the year.


My grandmom was known to get "hungry enough to eat a horse and chase the driver"

Ed J

Dakota's use "the wife" not my wife.
some others used by Germans from Russia
"throw the cow over the fence some hay"
"Make with the light out"

Our Blogs