More 1908 Dialect Notes on E 'Bama (white) English

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Aug 30 02:26:02 UTC 2010

"WHUT, pron.  What. A common pronunciation."

Whut TF?!!! There's *another* AmE pronunciation?! Abstracting away
from the three pronunciations of _wh_, of course.

"WHAR, adv.  _Whur_ is also heard."

Some may recall my surmise that there may be a connection between
these two pronunciations.

"WHIPPERWILL, n.  The chuck-will's-widow."

Also commonly known as the whip-poor-will.

"Y'ALL, pron. pl.  You all. This form is now practically universal in
the South [and absolutely universal in BE. W]. *It is never used with
a singular significance, as has been asserted by some.*" [emphasis


"YOU DON'T SAY.  You don't say so; equivalent to 'I am greatly
surprised by what you say.' A negro usage, chiefly."

Most certainly a phrase favored by my Texas grandmother, along with
the perhaps-more-stereotypically-Southern, "I declare!" She also used
"You don't say so!"

"WORK LIKE A CHARM, v. phr."

This was once peculiar to the South?! Youneverknow.

"WORK THE RABBIT'S FOOT ON ONE, v. phr. To conjure ..."

No mention of this as "A negro usage." Interesting.

"VOMIK, n. and v. Vomit."

Again, no mention of this as "A negro usage." Though not universal,
the shift of spelled _-it, -et_ to [Ik] is completely ordinary among
BE speakers.

"A negro is never addressed as _Mr._ by a white person."

Those were the good old days!

"TRADE-LAST, n.  A compliment reported from a third party."

An interesting word!

"TOSSEL, n.  Tassel"

Common among urrbody in Saint Louis, but not used in E TX BE.

"TOAD-FROG, n.  Toad. Universal."

Yep. I had to unlearn it.

"TITTY, n.  A woman's breast."

Not specified as "Universal," though, of course, it is.

"TOD(S) [falls together w. sE _toad(s)], prep. Toward(s)."

Alternates w. _twod(s)_ [twOd(z)] in E TX.

"TIGHT, n. ... [U]sed of financial stringency. 'I'm in a tight (for a
little money).' "

Universal in BE.

"TEENINCY [ti 'naIntsI], adj.  Very tiny."

Universal in BE and WE in Texas. (I heard it used by white Texans
while in the Army.) I've never heard it used by anyone from anywhere
else, not even by my father, a native of _W_ 'Bama. Also [ti 'naintSI]
in TX.

 "TACKY, adj.  Shabby, out of style ... Common. A _tacky party_ is a
party in which the guests dress comically or ridiculously."

As fate would have it, It's precisely in the term, _tacky party_, in
which I learned this meaning of "tacky." Sadly, I didn't learn it
until *after* I had arrived at the party, well-advertised in advance
as being a "tacky" one. As they say, "If you don' know, you bettuh
*aks* somebody!"

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"––a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
–Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society -

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