Volume I, No. 4, Summer 1974

This Speech of Ours

Compiled by Sally Moore

Time changes things all over the world, but there are some things here in the Ozarks that have not changed for maybe one hundred and fifty years. One thing is the speech all around us.

This speech of ours is a mixture of Southern and Midland dialects, with characteristics of its own. One hundred and fifty years ago the original settlers in the Ozarks came from the southern Appalachian Mountains from stock which generations earlier than that from rural England, Scotland and Ireland. Isolated for years in the eastern mountains and for at least a hundred years, here in the Ozarks, away from the main stream of westward movement and the American melting pot of cultures, these people retained many characteristics of Elizabethan and older forms of English grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary long after these forms were discarded elsewhere. The imagination of these people and the effect on their speech of their way of life which depended on their hands, back and faith, plus the archaic English makes an interesting and colorful dialect. Though no longer isolated, there is still much about the Ozark speech which is strange to outsiders. Following are some terms we hear as we interview for our stories.

Ear bobs (earrings): I lost one of my ear bobs.

Own cousin (first cousin): She's my own cousin.

Double cousins (children of two brothers who marry two sisters, cousins on both parents' sides)

Pilfer (rummage): She pilfered through every drawer in the house.

Anti-gogglin' (crooked): That picture is hanging anti-gogglin'.

Pole cat (skunk): That dirty pole cat got into the chicken house last night and killed ten chickens.

Fetch (to get something): Mother sent Jim to fetch some water.

Norate (make public by word of mouth): Just as well put it in the paper than tell Aunt Marthie, because she norates everything.

Sow belly (bacon): Oh boy, that sow belly and beans we had for dinner was good.

Passel (large number): He had a passel of kids.

Tote (carry): I met a boy totin' a whole bucket of berries.

Corndodger (cornbread): I like corn-dodger and milk before bedtime.

Hornswaggle (cheat): He could sure hornswaggle you out of anything.

Hankering for (want): That little boy is hankering for a bottle of pop.

Whenever (for when): Whenever you leave, come get me.

Lolly-gaggin' (messing around): She just lolly-gags around.

Play pretties (baby's toys): The baby's play pretties were treasured after he was gone.

Tetch (a little bit): He has jest a tetch of rheumatix.

Beholden (obliged to someone): I'm beholden to you forever.

Big windy (lie): He told a big windy about me.


Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.

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