Columns » Bob Lancaster

Where we're at

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The River City usage scolds have been asquawk lately about crimes against the mother tongue in the local media.

They've even cited ol' moi for a couple of violations — me, a grammar-school salutatorian! — and herewith I rise on a point of personal privilege to demur. To argue that you just can't go with Miss Thistlebottom every time and still be true to your Arkansas roots.

I've got a list of for-instances here to bolster my case, or buttress it, or some damned thing, and if you've got a minute you're welcome to look it over, unless you've got more important things to do, like keeping track of trips to the bathroom by your 2,000 closest Facebook friends, and what they accomplished in there, or failed to. So many essential tasks here in Century 21.

What I'm saying, grammatical propriety is often mainly a matter of where you are. Or, as you'll see below, where you're at. Thus —

We don't have welts in Arkansas, we have whelps. Whelps can either be the little critters like the Duggars have about 40 of, or the hard places you get after a good whupping with a peach-tree switch.

In Arkansas, we don't have people who are idiosyncratic; we have people who are peculiar. Or tetched.

We serve our holiday birds with dressing, not stuffing.

We don't worry in Arkansas about a thunderstorm approaching; we worry about a cloud coming up.

We don't surmise, we reckon.

We don't have relatives; we have kinfolks. Most of us have an immediate family but we don't call it that; many of us call it "Momma 'n' 'em."

We don't look wan; we looked peaked. Pronounced pee-kid. Similar to nekkid. As a jaybird. (See below.)

We don't have bluejays. (See above.)

We don't have opossums. And we usually de-rac our coons. Otherwise we'd have raccoondogs, which would be disconcerting.

Cattle here do not low.

We don't have slacks; we have britches.

We don't ask telephone callers where they are; we ask them where they're at.

In Arkansas, we call our white bread light bread. And whole milk sweet milk.

We don't have sofas; we have couches. Pap called the only one he ever owned a divanette, a diminutive of the old-fashioned divan, I suppose, and it didn't sound like an affectation coming from him. Sounded sorta odd, though.

We have a lot of something in Arkansas that we call chicken fertilizer that people in other places usually call a synonym for cowardly.

You don't stub your toe in Arkansas, you stump your toe.

We don't have gazebos in Arkansas; we have sheds. We don't have wetlands; we have bottoms.

We don't get boils in Arkansas; we get risons.

When it's lying in Arkansas, but it's not very serious, and it doesn't hurt anybody, we call it storying. Mommas often accuse their young'uns of storying.

A right smart of something is neither right nor smart.

We don't have pecan pie; we have Karo nut.

We aren't stubborn in Arkansas — but we can be contrary.

We don't eat many of what are elsewhere called delicacies; we do often use them for fishbait, though.

People elsewhere have wakes; we have visitation.

We don't have dentures in Arkansas; we have false teeth.

A winch in Arkansas is not a woman; it's something you get your vehicle unstuck with.

We have more yards than lawns.

Vehicles instead of automobiles. Buzzards instead of vultures. Pastures instead of meadows. We don't crouch near as much as we hunker.

You don't get honoraria in Arkansas, but you might get a love offering if you tell 'em what they want to hear.

We have both woodpeckers and peckerwoods, but only one of them is a bird.

We don't have yens, we have hankerings.

We don't have breakfast, lunch and dinner; we have breakfast, dinner, and supper — and while we don't have tea-time, a lot of our eating places have the Early Bird.

We don't have crayfish; we call them something else. Go into an Arkansas restaurant and order crayfish and two things will be assumed about you. (1)You're gay. (2) You're not from around here.

We have a place at an undetermined distance where a lot of things are located at. It's called yonder. Another place often mentioned but apparently unmapped is tarnation. Somebody named Sam Hill or Sam Hell lives there.

We don't admit to something; we own up to it.

Little people aren't called shrimps as much as they're called warts. People who worry a lot are worry-warts. And a person who pesters you is often said to be warting you, whether or not the pest is a little wart or a worry-wart or has warts.

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