On rural language

I have always loved to listen to workmen talk. The sentence construction and grammar are so distinctive that I am constantly delighted. While looking at a horse trailer last week, Allen and I met two other elderly men. One of them, speaking of a large local family, said, “Ain’t enough brains between ’em to make a good house cat!”

That generation never “hauls” rocks or stones, they “draw” them. Allen recently bought a new truck and I was concerned by the very small size of the truck bed. He shrugged. “Don’t matter. Ain’t gonna draw nothin’.”

Babies don’t cry, they “blat.”

When Allen refers to a “chimbley” (chimney) I feel as if a history book is speaking.

Not only do I enjoy hearing dialects and accents but unconsciously I can begin to copy them. When he was small, my son would become agitated when I was on the phone with my mother (from the Deep South) for any length of time. My voice would gradually take on a drawl and my R’s would soften. “Stop it!” Jon would cry furiously. “That’s not how you talk!”

I try very hard not to slip similarly into the rural idiom when I’m working with Allen. I’m aware it could be taken as mockery or condescension if I suddenly began speaking with fractured grammar. However I often repeat his words in my mind, examining how his sentences are put together. It is a quiet, ongoing pleasure.

Yesterday Allen and I jacked up the roof of the run-in shelter where our post had sunk. He was giving me directions with the jack while he stood back to watch the roof line.

“You keep pumpin’ til I say stop,” he instructed. “Cabbage?”

I looked up. “What?” I began — and then the penny dropped. I started to laugh. I couldn’t help it. “Allen, are you saying capisce?”

He grinned at me. “Cabbage, caboose, it don’t matter none.”


6 Responses to On rural language

  1. margo says:

    Actually it is “Capisci?” pronounced “chapishi”.
    I started again Italian courses two weeks ago. In vain hope to repair the damage in my Italian language skills suffered from Ms Austen and my long lasting attachment to English language.There was a time i was not only writing yet speaking as well in a slightly Regency mood. It was most preposterous ! 😉

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      Margo, you are so impressive with all your language studies! I don’t know any Italian and have been wary of it ever since a Buitoni boy, age 14, taught me, his dorm mother, at 24, that “Fanculo!” meant “Have a nice day!” LOL

  2. margo says:

    Never trust a teenager boy, ESPECIALLY if he’s too eager to teach you foreign languages !
    Yet, i know exactly what you mean, dearest!
    I’m also extremely fascinated by dialects of all kinds, and sometimes when being in close vicinity i tend to adopt them. There is a group of islands in Western Greece which have been for centuries under Italian influence – the dialect there is so musical and the common words “spiced” with Italian origin. I’ve been only for holiday there, yet i’m afraid i’ve got the influence for quite some time afterwards….oh, and not to mention my English nowadays – full of Scottish idiomatisms !LOL

  3. Jessika says:

    ” Downeast” Maine has a dialect and accent all its own. Even though I was born here, I never picked it up. Interestingly, my 3 yr old Ayla has an adorable downeast accent. It just adds to her character!
    I love the cabbage remark, I might use it with the kids just because its so cute.

  4. ewewin says:

    I read this post with such delight! I have wanted to come back and comment, but at the moment I only have the time to say- the “rural language” in Central PA is SO ODD to me. When we moved here I used to spend half of my time listening and attempting to understand what they had just said. One example is they say, “it is all”- meaning “it is all [done][gone][over]” and I was always waiting for the last word. I would think, “it is all………….what?”
    There are so many others – but I loved reading about the language “in your neck of the woods”.

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