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Welcome to our world of words

by Wanda Orton
Wanda Orton
What Yankees and Southerners have is a failure to communicate.

It happens all the time, especially in Baytown which, from the "git go," as an industrial center on the Houston Ship Channel, has been a melting pot of people from everywhere.

One of my favorite language-barrier stories comes from a classified ad in The Baytown Sun years ago. The ad said, "Kaiser trucks for sale," while it should have said, "Cars and trucks for sale."

The way the customer from up North said "cars and" sounded like Kaiser to the Southeast Texan classified ad taker.

Then there was the Sun reporter, newly arrived from Illinois, who referred to the "Sandy Center River" in a story. The way his news source said "San Jacinto" sounded like Sandy Center to our Yankee scribe.

Another newcomer from above the Mason-Dixon line, on his first day at work at The Sun, mentioned seeing the San Hacinto Monument on his way over here. After we corrected his speech, explaining we "say the jay" in Jacinto, he said, "OK," he got it. Then with a chuckle, he added, "Anyone for jalapeno peppers?" It was the way he said it - sounding out "jal" instead of "hal" -- that sent us native Texans into a state of shock.

Yankees. Can't work with them, can't work without them.

But I really feel sorry for them, bless their hearts, having to learn our lingo. It takes time and training to speak Southern, especially with a Texana/Baytonia dialect, with some Wild West thrown in along with a dash of Cajun.

We even have a little Yankee in the mix. After years of balking against the "you guys" usage, we have come to accept it as an alternative to "y'all." However, we still contend nothing says it better than "y'all" in casual conversation. On more formal occasions, y'all may say, "You all."

By the way, "bless their hearts" is a common expression amongst locals, and I might oughta explain. We bless hearts to convey a tad of affection along with a tinge of criticism. We try to be nice at first, blessing a heart, before going blunt.

A not-so-nice expression is to "bless out" someone, meaning you are scolding them, chewing them out.

What else in our own little world of words

Tell people to mind their own bidness. Better yet, their own biz-wax.

We don't turn off the lights; we cut off the lights.

Speaking of lights, we describe intersections as the red lights. Never mind they may be green or yellow. In the idiom in which we speak, any intersection -- when we are giving directions -- is "at the red light."

If you think that's a head-scratcher, what about, "Raise down that window."

In the kitchen, we cook with frying pans. Some people call them skillets; we don't. After all, you need a frying pan for frying "sarimp."

If the dish warsher is broke, we may have to warsh dishes in the zink.

If we are getting ready to go somewhere or do something, we are fixin' to.

When I was a news reporter, I called the fire department dispatcher every morning and sometimes he'd have nothing to report except a "car far."

Out in the sticks (rural area), we may see a lot of bob war (barbed wire).

Also, out in the sticks, we have to keep an eye out for deer. I liked to run over one the other day.

Don't forget the light bread and sweet milk, and remember, dinner is at noon. We don't have dinner in the evening; that's supper. And if we butter our biscuits with a substitute for the real thing, we call it oleo. Some people say margarine; we don't.

Well, let's hope this little ol' playtime with words and expressions has tickled y'alls funny bone. Have to run now. If I don't hurry up and turn this story in, I'm like not going to meet my deadline.



Wanda Orton Baytown Sun Columnist
"Wandering" December 5, 2015 columns

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