"to come", "cain't be hoped", and "dope wagon"

Thu Apr 13 21:54:48 UTC 2000

Mr. Tucker:

        I do not know  someone better qualified than I am has replied
to your pleasant message of April 4th.  You asked about certain
expressions you had heard "as a kid in the Piedmont area of North
Carolina (Stanly County to be more exact)."

        I'm not in a position to comment on these expressions from personal
knowledge, being born and raised in the deep south of New England,
but I find the following information in various dictionaries.

        You wrote: "My grandfather was from the western part of the
county and he and his kin used some phrases that we didn't hear often
in the eastern part of the county. One was the use of come to mean
wanted or would like. For example "I could come a coke about now". "
        I have not found this expression in any of the likely American
dictionaries, but the English Dialect Dictionary has "Used as an
imperative, with the connotation of an invitation to drink" and "A
man asking another to drink uses the word "come"."  (I suppose I am
to hear this as a man gesturing to a bottle and saying the single
word "come"; but perhaps "come" is supposed to introduce a phrase, as
"come; let's take a drink".)   Both Mr. Tucker's examples or the
use of this word had to do with drinking.  (The example not quoted
referred to a milk shake.)  The Scottish National Dictionary has
"come" as meaning to reach, achieve or attain, as does the OED.  This
is an alternative, though farfetched, connection: "I could succeed
with a drink right now", parrallel to "I could use a drink"?

        I can do better with your other two expressions.  You say: "Another
usage that I heard often from the west Stanly folks was 'hoped' in
certain instances instead of 'helped'. Actually I believe it was
always in the phrase, "It cain't be hoped". Helped seemed to be used
the rest of the time."  The Dictionary of American Regional English
has hoped as a southern and border state variant pronunciation of
helped, found as early as 1816, and with citatations from North
Carolina in 1895 and 1985.

        You further say "Both of my paternal grandparents worked most of
their lives in a cotton mill. The mill had a food cart that sold soda
and snacks. It was often referred to by the mill workers and others
associated with the mills as the 'dope wagon'."  DARE has "dope" as
meaning a carbonated beverage from 1915, including 1918, 1929
(Thomas Wolfe) and 1963 from North Carolina.  It also has "dope" as
meaning a medicine, so I suppose that "dope" = soda parallels tonic
= soda.  The soft drink Moxie used to advertise its benefits as a
"nerve tonic", before the food & Drug Admin. got after it.


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