A Southern lexicon




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by Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal


For those who’ve moved to the South only recently, you’ll accomplish more and irritate natives less if you understand the language. For your convenience, here are a few basics:

• Fire ants: (n) Invading hordes of South American arthropods that take over landscapes, damage farm equipment and sometimes compel otherwise respectable ladies to doff unmentionables in public; (v) to use a magnifying glass on a sunny day to take revenge on aforesaid arthropods

• Guns: (n) What you stick to, figuratively, in an argument unless you’re proven wrong; what you stick to, literally, when you hear a doorknob being rattled at 2 a.m.

• Hoss: (n) A four-legged equine creature sometimes used as a saddle mount or plow animal; (n) a very strong man

• Pollinate: (v) The past tense of “pollen eating,” the South’s chief amusement during April, along with wheezing and sneezing

• Peas: (n) Oblong, large-seeded legumes grown in hot weather, typically having eyes and often seasoned with streak o’ lean; not to be confused with inferior English peas

• Goober: (n) Peanut, a leguminous snack food often prepared by parching or boiling in its shell; (n) doofus – for instance, someone who would kick a fire ant mound, pick a fight with a hoss or eat peanuts without removing the shells

• Football: (n) An oblong leather object whose importance in Southern society is usually inflated (because it’s hard to punt or pass an uninflated one)

• Dirt: (n) A natural substance, the chief ingredient of vegetable gardens and small boys; an artificial substance, most often spread around at beauty salons and coffee shops

• Popcorn: (n) A form of maize that, when heated, puffs itself into a snack food; (n) covert name for Grandpa’s homemade whiskey

• Kudzu: (n) Vine imported from Asia to control soil erosion but which has covered millions of acres of trees, abandoned houses and slow-moving people (see “law of unintended consequences”; see also “experts”); (n) menagerie of ruminants

• Plumb: (v) To install piping and related fixtures; (adv) utterly (“I’m plumb tuckered out”)

• Barber: (v) How to keep the milk cow in the pasture

• Utter destruction: (n) the subject of hellfire-and-brimstone preaching

• Udder destruction: (n) what the milk cow experiences when she tries to leave the pasture after you barber

• Grits: (n) Polenta at one-quarter of the price (a singular food that has no plural form)

• Grit: (n) What John Wayne had the true version of; (n) what Bubba’s got a faceful of, plumb up to his sinuses and down to his tonsils, after Bush Hogging® all day

• Accent: (n) What non-Southerners speak with

Contact Daily Journal Oxford reporter ERROL CASTENS at errol.castens@journalinc.com.

(ran in Friday, April 12, DJ)