ERROL CASTENS: A Southern lexicon

By Errol Castens/NEMS 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