Sunday, February 12, 2017

[The Esoteric South] - Talkin' Southern, Part II

~ The Esoteric South

*A column as seen on the pages of the Covington News
Talkin' Southern, Part II 
A Column by Marshall McCart 
In the very first installment of this column some months back, I wrote about the key differences between a fellow, fella and a feller; made fun of Yankees for saying soda and pop; and discussed the pen-pin merger. This time around I'll talk about some key Southern words and phrases in order to give a better understanding of what it is to be "talkin' Southern."
Southern Words
We all know about the word y'all; however, you'd be amazed at the number of people who mess up and try to spell it ya'll. It's a contraction, you all! You put the apostrophe after “Y”, thank you very much. "Fixin to" is another one, naturally, and there a several others. Here are a few that don't get as much attention but are vitally important:
Rascal
Definition: a mischievous or cheeky person, especially a man or a child. Synonyms: scamp, scalawag, rapscallion, etc. In a sentence: "That rascal Marshall McCart — he just won't do." A rascal, or a scamp, is somebody who is sometimes up to no good - similar to a feller that we discussed in the first edition of this column — but maybe with a certain amount of likability. I'd like to think I have that likability factor to an extent. Regardless, while the South doesn't have total dibs on the word, it certainly seems rather Southern, doesn't it? Bonus: Rascalism — in the act of being a rascal.
Ruckus
Definition: a disturbance or a commotion; Synonyms: racket, fracas, hubbub. In a sentence: "When he lived out in Newborn in that house by the railroad tracks they ended up tearing down, McCart and Company were known for sometimes raising a ruckus." Ruckus is truly a quintessentially Southern word in my estimation. Just look at those synonyms. Fracas? Hubbub?
Hankering (hankerin').
Definition: a strong desire to have something. Synonyms: yearning, craving, itching. In a sentence: "Every time he found himself near Athens, that fella would always find himself with an insatiable hankering for The Varsity." Why would you ever use any other word when this word is available? It's the epitome of talkin' Southern!
Gallivant
Definition: to go around in search of pleasure and/or entertainment. Synonyms: flit, jaunt, roam. In a sentence: "The feller had a propensity for strong drink and a constant desire to go out gallivantin'."
Now, let's put all of those words together in one sentence: "Right before he left for the evening, his wife asked him why he always had a hankerin' for gallivantin' and rascalizin' and raising a ruckus."
Expressions and Sayings
"Six of one, a half dozen of the other."
A saying that I've been hearing for as long as I can remember, this expression refers to when two things are equivalent or the same. Or, as broad as long, as it were. I always assumed this was strictly a Southern saying but upon researching it I found out it actually originated in Scotland about two centuries ago. But, that kind of makes sense as many Scots found their way to Appalachia and the rest of the south. I actually used this one at the store a few years ago when talking about something with somebody. They were from up north. They looked at me like I was crazy and then asked me to repeat what I had said. After I did, they stared at me incredulously. Even after explaining it to them, they still couldn't get it. I think they thought I had just made it up on the spot.
"Lord willing and if the Creek don't rise."
One of my all-time favorites, this one encapsulates the essence of Southern talk. Basically it means that if all goes well, then we'll see you the next time around. The origin of this phrase has long been credited to Benjamin Hawkins, who would later live in Georgia and was Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the U.S. government in the late 1700s and early 1800s. On a response he sent to the President about returning the capital during the time when several Creek tribes were in a state of rebellion and war, he supposedly wrote this famous phrase. Some recently have tried to doubt the validity of this, but regardless, that's the story that we're sticking with.
Here's a three-fer dealing with somebody's intelligence level - "they're dumber than...1) a box of rocks; 2) a bag of hammers; or 3) a bucket of warm spit. All three of these are just outstanding! And you can substitute the word worthless on the bucket of warm spit one. It's fun to mix all these up, too. "Dumber than a bucket of hammers," or, "that's as worthless as a bag of warm spit!" Either way, you're getting the point across that this person or situation is pretty ignorant in no uncertain terms!
"Run out of town on a rail." "Riding the Rail."
This expression, which is still popular when talking about sports and politics, refers to the old American practice of a group of angered folks grabbing some public official or outcast of the community who had done wrong and making them straddle a fence rail that people would then take to the outskirts of town. It was considered the step below tar and feathering. You don't see it done much these days, but I think there's a few folks in town that wouldn't mind bringing it back right about now.
And a few others: "That dog won't hunt." An idea or a situation that is woefully inadequate. "Snake in the grass." A hidden danger, or a treacherous person. "Happy as a dead pig in the sunshine." This one is kind of a deep cut. It refers to when after a pig has been slaughtered, the sun will dry out the skin and pulls the lips back on the animal making it look like it's smiling. It's a reference to blissful ignorance and is similar to a similar one - "Happy as a pig in slop." "Drunker than Cooter Brown." A lot of us have heard of this one but there's a historical reference to it (somewhat). Apparently Mr. Brown lived right at the Mason-Dixon line and basically stayed drunk for four straight years in order to avoid fighting for either the Yankees or the Rebels. And here's a few more words: "Bodacious." Excellent, admirable. "Yonder." In the far distance. "Bonafide." Legit, genuine, real.
Marshall McCart aspires to one day be able to fully and truly articulate that peculiar essence of what The Esoteric South is all about. He can be reached at: marshall.mccart@gmail.com.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

[TES] - How a Little Derpy Dog Stole My Heart

~ The Esoteric South ~
How a Little Derpy Dog Stole My Heart 
The latest edition of my column at The Covington News. 
In all truthfulness, I've never really been a dog person. In fact — and I can already hear the Covington Peanut Gallery snickering — I suppose I've always been more of a cat kind of guy.
I think it has something to do with the fact that I grew up with cats. As a young boy, a lot of my memories center on the two Siamese cats we had, named Ho and Ming. Interesting names no doubt but it had something to do with my father serving in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Anyway, those were really great cats! Ho in particular was just the best. He was pretty much one of my best friends. He would always wait for me to get home from the bus. We played hide and seek and, always to my Grandmother's amusement, Ho would act like he couldn't find me for a while. But then he would always make a beeline right towards me. Once I cut off his whiskers with a pair of scissors but only on one side. Alas, I digress, this is a story about a dog...
Later on, my folks would bring a couple of dogs into the fold — Toby and Tinker. They were both okay, nothing special really. But then one day Tinker had a boy pup. His name was Otis and things would forever be changed in the McCart household. At least a few of you reading probably remember Otis. The conventional wisdom was Otis supplanted my brother and myself as the favorite child; I think he was actually put into Dad's will at one point. We all loved that dog to pieces — myself included — and I was finally starting to get this whole dog thing.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

[The Esoteric South] - Reaching Nirvana Through Lawn Maintenance

The Esoteric South 
Reaching Nirvana Through Lawn Maintenance 
Cutting grass is a passion of mine, and I believe it to be good for the soul. I truly do.
Now, that statement probably comes as a great surprise to some of my neighbors in and around the North Covington historical community. They'd probably speak to this in the contrary, and, if so, I'd probably not have much to say to dispute it. However, I think I've got a pretty good excuse. For most of the last year or so our lawn mower has been broken, and while we've tried to pay folks to cut it a fair amount, it's just so much harder to put it high on the priority list when we have to dish out money. In addition, I've been known to have a propensity for laziness, and it's just been so hot! And maybe the whiskey sometimes plays a role...
In fact — truth be told — the last time the grass was cut, after our lawn mower was fixed, it was my lovely wife who cut the grass.
There was a time in my life when I used to concern myself whenever she'd cut the grass (so you can tell it's been more than once). I'd think to myself something along the lines of: "Man, the folks around here are going to think you're a total and absolute no-account." I used to concern myself with this but not anymore. No, I finally learned to embrace it. It's like the lyrics to "Good Hearted Woman." I realized, ultimately, that it was a win for Yours Truly. "That rascal Marshall McCart," they'd say. "He won't even cut his own grass. Poor ole Ann has to do it."
For the record, she says she likes to cut grass. Therefore, in my mind's eye, I'm just helping her to be happy and reach Maslow's concept of Self Actualization, right? We do what we can here, folks, I'm just happy to help!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Talkin' Southern

My latest featured column over at The Covington News:

The Esoteric South 

Talkin' Southern 

Living, working and growing up in the South, I love the sights of our region. The magnolias are distinctive and the weather is always warm keeping things lush and green most of the year.
But there are also the sounds to enjoy, too. And I’m not talking about the cicadas in the summer and the marching bands and referees whistles of fall’s football season. I’m talking about the way us Southerners talk.
Here are a few examples I’ve noticed throughout the years, and I’m sure you can relate to.
Fellow vs. Feller vs. Fella
While these three terms may all seem similar there are very important differences between them to the trained ears of a Southerner.
fellow is a righteous and honorable sort. He is a man that aspires to greatness and a true gentleman who always wants to do things the right way. A fellow pretty much always does the right thing, even when it isn't popular. Fellows are usually very hard workers and always take the high road. They can easily deny their own ego and self-interests and work hard to be the men they're supposed to be.
feller, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of everything I just mentioned. Fellers are a shifty, seedy and shady bunch. Prone to backsliding, they're always looking for the easy way out and in doing as little as possible to maintain. A feller having scruples and honor? Not hardly. Basically fellers are just good ole-fashioned no-accounts. It's all about them; they care nothing of honor or doing the right thing.
fella, the category that this writer — and most of us, I think, for that matter — belongs to, is someone who tries very hard to be a fellow but has the tendency, at times, to be a feller. We can touch greatness and are usually doing things the right way, giving us a shade of being a fellow. However, sometimes we just can’t help ourselves from getting out of our own way, unfortunately finding ourselves as fellers some of the time. Hey, it happens. As Ray Goff would say, we just try to "work hard to get better." Usually we do okay; sometimes it depends on the weather. Or the state of the world, or how much bourbon we've consumed, or how the Georgia Bulldogs are doing in a given season and whether or not we lose to Auburn, Florida or Tech.
Bonus: A felon is a fella or a feller, and sometimes — very rarely — a fellow, who gets caught and convicted by the Law, for a serious example of being a feller.