Saturday, August 25, 2007

Ozark Wordlist

Hillbilly Hot Dawgs?
Well, hit's right distink...
(Image from Wikipedia)

Okay, here's the long-promised post offering the Ozark hillbilly wordlist that has had all of you on the edge of your seats. That's "seats" as in "chairs," not "bottoms," for bottoms don't seem to have edges. Not that I'm an expert in the shape of bottoms...

But let's drop the human anatomy angle on impossibly axe-sharp asses, and move to the more humane etymology of possibly Anglo-Saxon asp-sharp sass expressed in Vance Randolph's imagined hillbilly monologue as an implicit retort to H.L. Mencken's claim that the American language has no dialects:
Lee Yancey allus was a right work-brickel feller, clever an' biddable as all git-out, but he aint got nary smidgin' o' mother-wit, an' he aint nothin' on'y a tie-whackin' sheer-crapper noways. I seed him an' his least chaps a-bustin' out middles down in ol' man Price's bottom t'other ev'nin', a-whoopin' an' a-blaggardin' an' a-spewin' ambeer all over each an' ever', whilst thet 'ar pore susy hippoed woman o' hisn was a-pickin' boogers out'n her yeller tags, an' a-scrunchin' cheenches on th' punch'on 'ith a antiganglin' noodle-hook. D'reckly Lee he come a-junin' in all narvish-like an' tetchous, an rid th' pore ol' trollop a bug-huntin' -- jes' plum bodacious hipped an' ruinated her. They never did have nothin' on'y jes' a heap o' poke sallat an' a passel o' these hyar hog-mollies, but he must a got hisse'f a bait o' vittles some'ers, 'cause come can'le-light he geared up his ol' piedy cribber an' lit a shuck fer Gotham Holler. The danged ol' durgen -- he should orter be bored fer th' simples! (Vance Randolph, "Is There an Ozark Dialect?" American Speech, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Feb., 1929), pp. 203-204)
What are we to make of this? As I admitted a couple of days ago, it goes beyond even my hillbilly ken in many of its particulars. However, Randolph has exaggerated a bit for effect by thickening the monologue with obscure expressions, making the Ozark 'dialect' appear even more distinct from standard American English than it probably was. But is it even a distinct dialect? Randolph doesn't define dialect in his article (not that I recall, but please correct me if I've misremembered), and I do wonder if Ozark hillbilly speech was different enough from the more general speech patterns of the American South to be distinctly Ozarkian. At the very least, this Ozark way of speaking would be a form of English shared with the Appalachian way of speaking.

Anyway, here's the wordlist, which I've made as complete as I could in the interest of perfect clarity. Some of these, even I couldn't find or recall, but a few readers might know. Other words will seem utterly obvious, and you might wonder why I bothered to include them, but keep in mind that I have an international readership (or like to pretend that I do):

a-blaggardin' = blaggarding: present participle, "misbehaving(?)" (cf."blackguard"?)

a-bustin' out = busting out: present participle, "hurrying"

aint = ain't: negative verbal contraction: "am not, is not, are not"

a-junin' = juning: present participle, "(?)"

allus: adverb, "always"

ambeer: noun, "Saliva colored by tobacco chewed or held in the mouth; tobacco juice"

an': conjunction, "and"

antiganglin': present participle, cf. antigoddle (antigoggle): verb, "to pursue a zigzag course" (Randolph, "A Fourth Ozark Word List," American Speech, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Feb., 1933), p. 47)

'ar: adverb, "there"

as all git-out: adverb "utterly, entirely"

a-spewin' = spewing: present participle, "spitting forcefully"

a-whoopin' = whooping: present participle, "crying out in loud whoops" (whoop = "a loud cry of exultation or excitement")

bait: noun, "plentiful amount"

biddable: adjective, "following directions or obeying commands; docile."

bodacious: adverb, "outright, unmistakably"

boogers: noun, "pests as chiggers and ticks, fleas, bedbugs, and lice" (Jeffrey K. Barnes, "Arkansas Arthropods in History and Folklore," University of Arkansas Arthropod Museum)

bored: past participle, "insulted or imposed upon" (Randolph and Patti Sankee, "Dialectical Survivals in the Ozarks: III. Archaic Vocabulary," American Speech, Vol. 5, No. 5, (Jun., 1930), 424-430)

bottom: noun, "bottom land"

can'le-light" noun, "candlelight = evening"

cheenches: noun, "bedbugs" (Jeffrey K. Barnes, "Arkansas Arthropods in History and Folklore," University of Arkansas Arthropod Museum)

clever: adjective, "generous or accommodating" (Randolph and Patti Sankee, "Dialectical Survivals in the Ozarks: III. Archaic Vocabulary," American Speech, Vol. 5, No. 5, (Jun., 1930), 424-430)

cribber: noun, "a horse that has the habit of cribbing" (i.e., "a vicious habit of a horse; crib-biting. The horse lays hold of the crib or manger with his teeth and draws air into the stomach with a grunting sound")

danged: past participle, "euphemism for damned"

d'reckly: adverb, "directly, i.e., immediately (or soon thereafter)"

durgen: adjective, "countrified or old-fashioned" (Randolph and Nancy Clemens, "A Fifth Ozark Word List," American Speech, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Dec., 1936), pp. 315)

each an' ever': pronoun, "each other"

feller: noun, "fellow"

fer: preposition, "for"

geared up: past participle, "readied, prepared"

hipped: past participle, "(?)" [UPDATE: An anonymous reader has informed me of the following: "hipped" means exasperated, "put out", discountenanced. eg: "Brother, you look hipped -- is something amiss?" I notice Patrick O'Brian's characters used this word in the 18th century diction of the Aubrey-Maturin novels set in the era of the Napoleonic wars."]

hippoed: past participle, "hypocondriacally ill" (Randolph and Patti Sankee, "Dialectical Survivals in the Ozarks: III. Archaic Vocabulary," American Speech, Vol. 5, No. 5, (Jun., 1930), 424-430)

hisn: possessive pronoun, "his" (from "his one"?)

hisse'f: reflexive pronoun, "himself"

hog-mollies: noun, "mostly North American freshwater fishes with a thick-lipped mouth for feeding by suction; related to carps"

hyar: adverb, "here"

'ith: preposition, "with"

jes': adverb, "just"

lit a shuck, fr. light a shuck: verb phrase, "to depart in haste" (Randolph, "A Third Ozark Word List," American Speech, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Oct., 1929), p. 19)

middles: adverb(?), "in the middle of(?)"

mother-wit: noun, "common sense"

nary: adverb, "not any"

narvish-like: adjective, "nervous-like"

noodle-hook: noun, "fish hook(?)"

noways: adverb, "anyway"

o': preposition, "of"

ol': adjective, "old"

orter: modal verb, "ought to"

out'n: prepositional expression, "out of"

passel: noun, "A large quantity or group"

piedy = pied(?): adjective, "patchy in color; splotched or piebald"

plum: adverb, "completely"

poke = pokeweed: noun, "a tall North American plant (Phytolacca americana) having small white flowers, blackish-red berries clustered on long drooping racemes, and a poisonous root"

pore: adjective, "poor"

punch'on = puncheon: noun, "a type of wooden floor made from split logs" (Andrew Kuntz, The Fiddler's Companion (cf. "Everybody to the Puncheon"))

right: adverb, "completely, entirely"

sallat: noun, "salad"

scrunchin': present participle, "crushing"

seed: preterite, "saw"

sheer-crapper: noun, "sharecropper"

simples: noun(?), "stupidity(?)"

smidgin': noun, "a very small amount"

some'ers: adverb, "somewhere"

susy: adjective, "hopelessly inferior, and at the same time ludicrously complacent or conceited" (Vance Randolph, "A Possible Source of Some Ozark Neologisms," American Speech, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Dec., 1928), pp. 116-117)

tags: noun, "ears(?)"

tetchous: adjective, " easily irritated or made angry; short-tempered; peevish, irritable; testy: tetchy"

thet: demonstrative adjective, "that"

th': definite article, "the"

tie-whackin': present participle, "cutting railroad ties as one's job(?)"

trollop: noun, "a restless woman, a gad- about" (Randolph and Patti Sankee, "Dialectical Survivals in the Ozarks: III. Archaic Vocabulary," American Speech, Vol. 5, No. 5, (Jun., 1930), 424-430)

vittles: noun, "victuals = food"

work-brickel: adjective, "industrious"

yeller: adjective, "yellow"

Well, there they are, as promised -- and a lot more work it was than I'd expected, so I hope that my Herculean labors were not in vain.

Test next Tuesday...

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At 7:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Slightly off topic, but many of those are similar to the anglophones in the Gaspe peninsula.

The similarities are striking, but not nearly as striking as what is missing; words that are influenced by the much larger francophone communities surrounding them. Some towns as close as five miles away.

Shows the longstanding high reluctance to mingle with the "frogs". So I wonder if a similar attitude is present in the Ozarks, or is it mostly a geographicaally imposed limitation, and not a cultural one?

At 8:11 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Geography, most likely, for the Scotch-Irish of the Ozarks are not so different from the larger, ambient culture.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait, bodacious is a hillbilly word? And here I thought it was surfer/stoner* lingo.

* (Yes, I realize that these are two entirely different groups of people, but to Northeasterners like myself they are pretty much indistinguishable.)

My personal favorite, though: sheer-crapper

At 11:16 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Charles, I suspect that very many of these words were not specific to the Ozarks and Appalachians.

Either that, or the Beverly Hillbillies had a much larger culural influence than any of us have realized...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if lexiphanic might be of some help in ascertaining the origin of the place name for "Boston Mtn" portion of the Ozarks?

I heard a few times the term noodle-hookin' to mean wading in chest-high water and reaching into submerged holes and debris for catfish. Ones hands were the "hooks." You're more apt to hear a simple "noodlin'" today. I did go a couple times until I accompanied a few coon-asses (Louisiana, and that is how they self-identified) when I worked on the tow-boats. Southfork had snakes but Louisiana had gators.

I've heard "simple" to imply or mean innocent.

As for "tags", I think you're correct. Grandfather once said, "that feller's got tags like a jersey cow." He noticed I didn't understand. "Ears!"


At 2:48 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I did come across one explanation of "noodlin'" as per your description.

But here's another that I just now have found:

"Noodling -- The taking of fish by the use of a pole mounted breakaway hook that detaches at the time of the strike or catch, or snare type device with an attached line manipulated by hand when a person is in or under the water."

It sounds a bit complicated for a hillbilly like the one described. I'm guessing that some larger hook was held in one hand while the other noodled for fish, the hook being used to secure the catch.

Any experts?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:04 PM, Blogger The Asian Badger said...

To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy.....

you might be a redneck if you read the "Gypsy Scholar's" blog to get your vocabulary right.

At 3:11 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Good one, TAB.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Makes sense. And TAB'd be right on target if the word hillbilly was substituded.


At 4:23 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Right, JK, 'cause there is a difference.

But some of TAB's humor would then be lost...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:06 AM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

"pore" = poor.

I have noticed...being a hillbilly myself...and in the Ozarks...that "poor" is not pronounced as "pore" but as "per".

(Jeffery, sorry it's taken me so long to get over to this post.)

As usual, your post is entertaining and informative.

At 3:55 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Daddio, you're right. In the Ozarks, the word "poor' is pronounced more like "per."

I wonder if Randolph inadvertently assimilated the pronunciation to a more Southern dialect, where folks do tend to say "pore."

(I suppose that the 'correct' pronunciation of "poor" would be more like the word "pool" but with an "r" instead of the "l" at the end.)

If you know of any other archaic Ozark expressions, do let me know.

Thanks for making it over. Drop in anytime.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:53 PM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

Okay, Jeffery.

How 'bout "hankerin'"?

And...'though this is probably more widely used in ruraldom..."pole-cat"?

Sorry for the deletion...I feel pretty stupid when I make a typo around these here parts. Had to fix that one.

At 1:39 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Both are good words, Daddio, though perhaps not limited to the Ozarks.

Next time that you're in the Boston Mountain region (or even the wilds of Izard County), take a worldlist along and ask some of the oldtimers if they recognize any of the words, especially the unfamiliar words.

If you can access the Randolph articles through your college, that'd help you find more old Ozark words.

No problem about the deletion -- I purged its remainder anyway.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:44 AM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

Jeffery, alert me when you do more posts on this subject. I want to link to these posts from the EIC blog!

At 5:46 AM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

This may also be more universal than I might think, but...what about the phrase, "fair tuh middlin'"?

At 5:50 AM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...


"Why hello there, Jedidiah, how have you been?"

"Oh...fair tuh middlin', ah reck'n."

At 6:47 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Daddio, I'll keep you posted.

As for the expression "fair tuh middlin,'" that sounds to me like an expression generally used in the South. I may be wrong, but I seem to have used in without difficulty when I was a student at Baylor.

I've just now Googled "fair to middling" and seen that it is also used in Britain. Now if you mean the pronunciation, then that might be peculiar to the Ozarks (and Appalachians).

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"hipped" means exasperated, "put out", discountenanced. eg: "Brother, you look hipped--is something amiss?"

I notice Patrick O'Brian's characters used this words in the 18th century diction of the Aubrey-Maturin novels set in the era of the Napoleonic wars.

At 3:39 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Anonymous. That word had me hipped!

I wonder what its etymology is. I can guess that "hippoed," which means "sick," comes from Hippocrates . . . but "hipped"? From what?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:48 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

A lot of is muted in pronunciation. IN a way we speak monotone as far as emphasis on syllable goes, but the speed and pitch of the word will change to add emphasis. Also, there's a huge mix of phrases, and idioms that make up meaning much more than defined terms. A lot of them are basic, things that typical southern folk would say, like eaten crow or as the crow flies. Beyond that, the geographic nature comes into play. Things are often not called by street names, but by who owns it, fishing spot, hunting spot, and those get mixed in as well. Some of the older folks I have talked to have a lot of Appalachian twang mixed in with it. Unforntinatly, as the older generation dies off, so is the dialect. Many of the youngins are able to move off to the big city (springfield, MO) and attend college and then they get married, and jobs and don't move back, or people from California move in and buy up a few acres and start a family (I have no idea why so many folks from the west coast have moved out there in the last 10 years other than the land is dirt cheap). All of these things contribute to the tounge become more non-regional. It's sad to see really. Fill free to shoot me an email, if you have any questions.

At 9:42 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I am one who moved away, but my accent changed while I was still living in the Ozarks. I recall misspelling "wash" as "warsh" on a spelling test, so I started consciously trying to pronounce words 'correctly.' What a shame, I now think . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My family moved to southwest Missouri in the 1840s. My dad was the first to leave, and he came to Amarillo, Texas. I was in speech therapy for two years because the teachers could not understand my language. There are several things that I remember about the language of my family in the Ozarks: er = are; crek = creek; liltlun = child (litluns = children). Sometimes they would use a construction like, where'n you go'n = Where are you going.

At 5:53 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks. Those words are familiar to me, but I don't recall "where'n you go'n."

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:51 AM, Anonymous Fred Pinckney said...

There is a phrase which I heard a lot in South-central Missouri which I have never seen in these types of things. It is "bad right". Used like "that roof is sagging bad right." I guess a synonym might be "severely". Also, they didn't say "ya'll. They said "you'ns" or "youins".

At 12:28 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Mr. Pinckney. I wonder if "right bad" and "bad right" are the same expression, but with the latter bassackwards.

Jeffery Hodges

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