In the March issue, I mentioned several words I grew up using. But some of our readers new to York County might not be familiar with the lexicon. So I will endeavor to educate you in Southern – and possibly some redneck – language.

We live in one of the seven counties that comprise the Olde English District of South Carolina, so some of our words derive from the spoken language of our ancestors. Many were just made up. Southern is defined by the person you ask. The old definition was anyone who lived south of the Mason-Dixon Line. But many Virginians don’t consider themselves Southerners. My fluency in Southern grew from living near the coast, in the midlands, the Piedmont and the foothills of South Carolina, peppered with brief stays in Augusta, Georgia, and Asheville, North Carolina.

My first experience with someone having difficulty understanding the Southern dialect was as a college freshman. A girl in one of my classes asked a young man from Germany, “Are you rushin’?” Her dialect was so thick that even I had to listen twice. The poor man, who spoke English fluently, finally answered after she repeated her question a couple of times.

“Oh, no I’m German,” he replied politely.

“No, are you rushin’?” she continued. “In a fraternity?”

“Oh,” he nodded with a grin of understanding. “Yes, I am.”

Newcomers might have missed the “Introduction to Southern” class offered at the welcome center. (Kidding!) So I offer this primer for the uninitiated.

When we say “Hey!”, it’s a greeting or an attempt to get your attention. We know that hay is for horses. We’ve heard that our whole lives.

Some things we just say weird, like borrie for borrow, okrie, which we hear as okra; and rout to indicate our address at Route 1. It took me years to understand that a chester drawers is a tall chest of drawers and that “parf the course” means par for the course. Granddaddy wasn’t “stud about that”, which I keenly observed to mean in the most loving way that he wasn’t interested in the insight that I interrupted him to provide.

The county bordering us is pronounced LANK -is-ter. And the city north of us with the outlet mall is pronounced Con-CORD like the plane, not CON-kerd like New Hampshire’s capital. The military college in Chahlston is the SIT-a-del. Don’t let us hear you say sit-a-DEL. And if you go to Charleston, where the language is colored with more dialect, you cross the Couper River like the car type, not the chicken coop.

Many Southerners mash not only potatoes, but buttons and computer keys, too. We fish with minners (minnows), not shiners.

We have our own vocabulary, too. There’s no doubt about it. Frustrated mothers might say, “Every cotton pickin’ time I need that child, she’s on the telephone.” And fathers might respond, “She’s talkin’ to that dad blame (or John Brown or dad bern) boy down the street who’s good for nothin’ and just piddlin’ around in his daddy’s shop.”

We are exceptionally fond of calling our fathers “Daddy”. Both boys and girls use that term of endearment throughout our lives.

The worst outcome from the scenario above would be for the boy to take a respectable girl to a juke joint, where they might take part in dancing, gambling and drinking. They would be better off sitting in the front porch swing and holding hands.

A skill that I should have learned from my grandmother is how to put up vegetables, or can the bounty she grew all summer. Granny froze the foods she put up instead of canning in jars, but we had peas, corn, butter beans, okra, chicken, beef and pork year-round. I don’t remember her pickling cucumbers, but the family had a recipe for pear relish, or chow chow.

Ah-s is frozen water, not a part of the body to be kicked.

Be careful if someone is mad as a setting hen or ornery (mad) as a hornet. A hen on her nest does not like to be assaulted, especially with water. Someone who’s rising at the crack of dawn might go to hollerin’, especially if they find a child sleeping late or burnin’ daylight.

Rock Hill is the only place I have ever heard the term hose pipe. I still think “local native” when I hear someone refer to the garden hose that way. But they get their point across.

Another word new to my friends from elsewhere is sursie. My mom brought me token gifts when she returned from an outing. A sursie is an inexpensive gift that says, “I was thinking about you.” My favorite sursie was caramel creams! That’s carr-a- MEL, nor CAR-mel, by the way.

One of the last things you might hear from a Southerner is “Hey y’all! Watch this!” This means “I’m gonna DIE!” But maybe you’ll hear the less exciting, “Bless your heart,” which means, well, God bless you.


By Beth Crosby