For the past few months, I’ve been offering a selection of Old Timey Words of the Week to my “friends” on Facebook. It began while I was starting to promote my first novel, The Rock Hole, which is based on both true and fictional events set in 1964.
While I was writing the manuscript, small words and phrases crept in that were totally unanticipated. Many times I would surprise myself by mentally “hearing” my characters use words that I hadn’t thought about in years.
After everyone in the house read the novel, my youngest daughter, Taz, suggested that we celebrate this publishing event by designating an Old Timey Word of the Week.
The first was bildukey.
Believe me, that word got a lot of people talking and I spent quite a while explaining that it wasn’t a rude or dirty word. It is a tool. A shovel.
From there, we began to have fun. One day my publishers sent me an email, questioning a word I used in reference to cutting bailing wire to feed hay.
Uncle James held out his hand. “Top, hand me them dikes from over there.” He turned to Grandpa while I climbed down off the hay to get the wire cutters where they lay on the lid of barrel. “I’m scared to death about whoever made these tracks. I don’t believe I want Pepper over here until this thing is over. You ought to think about letting Top come stay with us, too.”
It took several emails to explain the word dikes. A lot of explaining.
So did “histe.” Sometimes it takes more than one person to histe a deer into the back of a truck. As I get older, I need help histing deer and anything else heavy. Once again, I was accused of misspelling an old fashioned word.
The same with job. No, not a job you have every day, but when someone jobs something with a knife. Of course I know the proper word is jab, but I had uncles who said job.
These are the kinds of things that make language interesting, and many times these conversational oddities define a community, region or state.
It seems that “dab” got a lot of attention. A little dab of this, and a little dab of that. From there on, folks on Facebook, and via email, began to suggest ideas for my future word list. Many of them made it, and will be discussed at a later date.
At the same time, phrases began to show up in my mailbox. That collection is underway, but we have to be careful, because some suggestions border on Hollywood dialogue that people suppose Texans say.
I got a lot of yee haws, dag nab it, and shoot doggies.
I don’t know anyone who ever uttered those phrases, but folks think we talk that way, and that’s Hollywood, or television for you.
For a while I was in a spirited email discussion over the proper writing of y’all.
Y’all is correct. Not you’all, ya’all or any other incorrect derivative. Texans say y’all.
The more I work on the third manuscript, the easier it has become to remember how our relatives talked, and once again, these words have seasoned my work.
This week’s word was clabber. It came to me while on a skiing vacation last week. When was the last time you heard that one?
Funny, but my spell-check disliked the word. Had to add it. Clabber.
The following is a partial list of what I’ve explained through the months.
Apt, caissen, conniption, doozy, dote, fit, galls, gee-haw, goozle, gusset, hissy, histe, laws,nubbin, piddlin, pure-d(dee), shinny, skdedaddle, swanny, and yonder.
My list of unused Old Timey Words is getting longer by the week thanks to recurring memories, my wife The War Department, and suggestions from both friends and acquaintances.
I try to keep these words alive, because they’re beginning to disappear or fall from favor through disuse. As the old folks pass on, they take with them parts of our culture that will soon be gone forever.
That’s why I post them on Facebook, and Tweet them, so that we won’t forget. Send me the words and phrases you’d like to see some day and we’ll see about getting them out there to jostle stale or forgotten memories.
You can find me on Twitter at @ReavisZWortham, on Facebook, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on my newest technological endeavor, my blog at reaviszwortham.wordpress.com.
Happy New Year, and I look forward to hearing from y’all.