I want to say right off the bat that this isn't one of those cute, comical dictionaries that lists hillbilly off-standard pronunciations like "far," as in, "Throw another log on the far." These are actual words and phrases used in common parlance by educated people in Arkansas. While many of these words and phrases have their origins in a semi-isolated rural heritage, they do follow coherent and consistent grammatical rules. If you visit here you're likely to hear them and you might want to know what they mean. If you know of any you think should be included on this list, e-mail me at Travelogue.
One source in particular worth mentioning is the regular "Old Fashioned Expressions" article in the Crittenden County Historical Quarterly. I looted that source for basic vocabulary, but there are lots of colorful idiomatic expressions that I haven't included here. "...tall enough to hunt geese with a rake." That kind of thing.
aginner, (n. uh-GINN-nur), a contrary or obstructionist person, one habitually opposed to any new idea. "That boy's an aginner. Whatever the schoolyard wants to play, he wants to play something else."
antigogglin', (adv. AN-tee-gog-lin), Askew, off plumb, not straight, indirect. "The elevator in the Eifel Tower doesn't go straight up the central axis of the structure, rather it runs up the leg of the tower antigogglin'." or "...runs antigogglin' up the leg of the tower." Also sometimes spelled "antigoddlin."
bee-gum hat and clawhammer coat, top hat and tails.
blinky milk, milk that has just begun to sour. Watch somebody's eyes when they're trying to decide if the milk has gone bad and you'll see why they call it "blinky milk."
blind tiger, a store that illegally sells liquor in a dry county.
booger, (n. BOO-gur, the vowell pronounced as in "book.") A difficult thing. "That algebra test was a booger." Also a ghost or haint.
cattywompus, (adj. CAT-tee-wahm-pus), tilted, not straight. The word derives from "catty-cornered," meaning diagonal, but implies a disorderly tilt or meander. "Your seam is all cattywompus."
chain outfit, (n.), a franchised business. "Back Yard Burgers is a chain outfit out of Memphis."
chimney critic, a know-it-all with no practical experience. Somebody who sits in a rocking chair by the fireplace and criticizes the work of others.
conniption fit, (n. kun-NIP-shun fit), a panic attack. Sometimes confused with hissy fit.
cut one's foot, (v. phrase), to step in an animal turd. Sometimes a polite euphemism used in mixed company. You see Bubba examining the sole of his shoe and you say, "What are you looking at, Bubba? Did you cut your foot?"
dingleberry, (n. DING-gul bair-ee), you don't want to know.
doodle bug, (n. DOO-dull bug), a compact car, sometimes more specifically a VW beetle.
duck butter, (n. DUCK butt-er), again, you don't want to know.
fine as frog hair, exceptionally pleasing. Frog hair, being invisible, must be very fine indeed. Get it?
fraidy hole, a storm cellar.
futher, (FUH-thur), means "farther" when you need it to mean "a greater distance" and it means "further" when you need it to mean "in addition to." Saves us the three minutes it would take to learn the distinction.
galanipper, (n. GAL-uh-NIP-ur), a mosquito hawk, an insect that looks like a giant mosquito and preys on mosquitos. I've heard the origin comes from "gallon nipper," as if such a large mosquito would take a gallon of your blood with one nip.
gettin' place, usually a store, but it could also be a barn, warehouse, closet or anyplace stuff is stored until needed. For example, if I say, "Get me a bale of hay," the gettin' place would be the barn. I heard Phyllis Speer on Arkansas Outdoors use this one the other night during a cooking segment. She was showing off a fancy can opener and John Philpot asked her, "Where'd you get that?" She answered, "At the gettin' place."
give out, (adj.), exhausted, spent. "The runner collapsed because his legs were give out." (v.) (similar to previous form, conjugable as irregular verb "give") "The runner collapsed when legs gave out."
goggle-eye, (n. GOG-el-eye), a rock bass or warmouth bass.
golimbers, (n. GO-lim-burz), an expression of exasperation in which the affected person "goes limber." Most often seen in children. "I told her she couldn't go to the party unless she cleaned up her room and she got the golimbers."
gooder 'n grunt, (gooder than grunt), probably a reference to the self-satisfied sounds of a pig eating slop. Probably. "Lucy's cornbread is gooder 'n grunt."
goozle, (n. GOO-zel) mouth, lips. Used almost exclusively in the phrase "to wet one's goozle." "Just pour me enough wine for me to wet my goozle."
green-apple-trots, n., diarrhea.
het up, ("Het" is irregular past tense of "heat.") Heated up, overexcited. "Don't get all het up over a friendly card game."
hissy-fit, n. a fit of impotent anger, an overt display of displaced frustration. See also conniption fit.
ho, (HO). This word is the southern aloha. It can mean just about anything depending on the context. I've heard it used as a substitute for hello, goodbye, stop, go, look out, here, there, as an answer to a roll call, "pass the squash" as well as "that's enough squash." I suspect that an orangutan from Borneo could for a time pass himself off as a native Arkansan as long as he said nothing but "ho."
hogging (or hawging), (gerund of verb "hog," pronounced HAW-gin, regardless of spelling), to catch fish, typically catfish, with one's hands by feeling into crevices and hollow logs. Some grab the fish by feel. Others wiggle the fingers in order to get the fish to bite them, whereupon they grasp the fish by the mouth. Another term for the same practice is "noodling."
hollywood stop, referring to automotive traffic, a stop that isn't a stop. If you merely slow down as you pass through an intersection where you're supposed to stop, that's a hollywood stop.
igmo, (n. IG-moe), an ignoramus (used mostly by children). "He's fishing for trout with stink bait. What an igmo!"
jag, (n. JAG), a detour, fad or short-term infatuation. "He's on a religious jag."
jog, (n., JOG), a double bend or dogleg in a road.
june around, (v., JOON uh-ROUND), move in a hurried, but directionless manner. The description comes from the motion of a june bug spinning helplessly on its back. "She couldn't find anything in Aunt Elsie's kitchen. She spent half the day just juning around."
marmaduke, (transitive v. MAR-mah-dook), cheat, swindle.
mess, (n. MESS), an unspecified number or group of something, as in "several," most often something gathered or prepared in relation to a meal. (Probably originating from same roots as "mess" in the military sense.) "Aunt Frieda shelled a mess of peas for dinner." "We're going to fry us up a mess of catfish, too." Non-food applications are rarer and are usually prefaced by the intensifier "whole." "I found a whole mess of pencils in the drawer of that old desk."
mess (with), (v. MESS), fiddle with, play with, futz, harass. "I cut the knot because I was tired of messing with it." "You're in for a world of hurt if you don't stop messing with my date."
momanem's, (n. MOM-un-imz), irregular plural of a contraction of "Mom and them." The locale of your mother's household. "After church we're having a fish fry at momanem's." Nobody ever says "popanems," but everybody uses this "momanem's" construction.
mushmelon, (n. MUSH-mil-un), a cantaloupe, a muskmelon.
nigh on to, (NIE-on-tah), nearly, approaching. "We came off the lake because it was getting nigh on to dark." "Getting an idea into that boy's head is nigh on to impossible."
noodling, (gerund of v. "noodle", NOO-dul-in), see "hogging."
off-ox, passenger side. The drover of an oxcart sat behind one ox, and the passenger sat behind the off-ox.
pee-waddin, (n. PEE WAD-'n), piss, piss-wadding. I've only heard this word used in the phrase "scare the pee-waddin" and "beat the pee-waddin" out of somebody. "That dog scared the pee-waddin out of me." "Notre Dame beat the pee-waddin out of Northwestern." Tone and inflection are important with this phrase and are reminiscent of the cadence used with the olfactory exclamation "pee-yew!"
plum(b), (adv. PLUM), totally, completely, entirely, fully. "I'm plum tired of messing with your penny-ante problems." "The pitcher's arm is plum give out."
plump[down/over], (v. intransitive PLUMP), a combination of the phrases "plop down" and "slump over," and carrying both meanings simultaneously. "He came home from work so tired he just plumped down in his favorite chair and went to sleep, whereupon he plumped over."
punkinseed, (n. PUNK-in-seed), a longear sunfish.
rackensack, (n. RACK-in-sack), an Arkansan, sometimes pejorative, depending on the circumstances.
roebuckers, (n. ROW-buck-ers) Store-bought teeth, as from the Sears catalog.
ring-tailed tooter, a wildly energetic person, one who routinely excels. Anything else (like a storm or a locomotive, for instance) that is uncommonly powerful. "The defensive secondary is doing its best, but that wide receiver is a ring-tailed tooter."
scooch, (v. SKOOTCH) scoot, move, slide. "Skooch on over so I can get through."
scooters, (n. SKOO-turz) diarrhea. "Sorry I'm late, Mr. Prime Minister, I had the scooters."
shackledy, (adj. SHAK-ul-dee), like a shack. "The house was all run down and shackledy."
shellcracker, (n. SHELL-krak-er), red ear sunfish. Good eatin'!
sigh-foggin', (v.. SI-fog-gin), daydreaming. (A reader sent this one in. Nobody in my family ever heard this one, but a lot of these things are highly localized.)
slonchways, Sideways, diagonal, cattywompus, antigogglin. "He was so tired all he could do was lean slonchways in the door jamb."
snake doctor, (n.) a dragonfly.
snakebit, (adj., SNAKE-bit) cursed, unlucky, prone to accident or failure. "Our team gained more yardage, but the turnovers and penalties tore us up. We were just snakebit all afternoon."
snorty, (adj. SNOR-tee) braggardly.
southern engineering, mechanically improvised, usually involving the wrong parts, the wrong tools and only approximate fit and finish. Southern engineering is the flip side of yankee ingenuity.
sprangledy, (adj. SPRANG-gul-dee) frayed, splayed, mussed, dishevelled. "If you go walking in the rain your hair will get all sprangledy." Also, thin and reedy. "The tomato plants in the shade grew all sprangledy and sick looking."
squirrel-eye, (n. SKORL-ah) Visual acuity acquired in squirrel hunting. "I didn't bring a level so I lined up these fence posts using my squirrel-eye."
stob, (n. STOB), the part of a small tree left in the ground after cutting, too small to be a stump, too big to be a knob. It's a stob. "Don't drive across that lot. I cut down some sumac and it's full of stobs."
stove in, (adj. or v. STOVE IN), bashed, crushed or buckled, as if hit with a staff. Think of "stove" in this case as being a past-tense verb derived from the noun "staff." "The catcher played too close to the plate and got his head stove in." Less frequently used as active verb. "The police stove in Rosco's trailer door."
stove up, (adj. STOVE UP), irritated, aggravated or overheated. Usually phrased "all stove up." "The weather has my trick knee all stove up." "He's all stove up because the insurance company is delaying his payment." "Pulling that hill gets my car radiator stove up."
suck-egg mule, an irritating, worthless liability. Literally, a mule that eats your eggs. I've heard this one all my life, but only as the exclamation, "Well I'll be a suck-egg mule!" It's one of those substitution expletives someone uses when he starts to say "son of a bitch" and in the middle of the first syllable realizes he's in mixed company.
sull up, (v. SULL), to become sullen. "When his team lost the game I thought he was going to sull up and cry."
(I) swan, (exclamation), corruption of "I swear." To folks who take their bible seriously, even the word "swear" might violate the religious taboo regarding the trivial swearing of oaths. Just to be on the safe side they substitute the word "swan" for "swear."
tookie (little), (adj. TWO-key), very small, like a runt, insignificant. "All I caught on my fishing trip was one tookie little punkinseed bream." The intensifier "little" is almost always used.
teeninecy, (adj. and n. TEE-nine-see, tee-NINE-see),tiny, teeny-weenie, itty-bitty. "To paint those extra fine lines you really need a teeninecy brush."
titsiefritzel, (adj. and n. TIT-see-Frit-sul), effete, fancy, dandified, fragile. Also anything such as an adornment that creates such an impression. "The lampshade was covered with titsiefritzel." "Is it my imagination, or are Frazier and Niles a little titsiefritzel?"
tump, (v. reg. TUMP), a combination of "turn over" and "dump out" used to convey both words and both meanings simultaneously. Intransitive form: "The canoe tumped over." "We tumped over in the canoe." Transitive form: "We were shooting the rapids when the snag tumped us over." The phrase "tump out" is never used, and is a dead giveaway for anybody trying to pass himself off as a native.
wawl [eyes], (v. tr. reg. WALL), wallow or roll, as in "Don't wawl your eyes at me." (OED lists wall-eyed as a condition in which the iris is light colored or a large amount of the white of the eye is exposed.) Also infrequently, wawl-eyed running fit. A reader told me about this one, and I had to do some checking. Old-timers tell me that back in the thirties it wasn't uncommon for dogs to be overtaken by some kind of nervous, pseudo-epilieptic fit characterized by wide-eyed panic and directionless running. It would begin with the dog running in circles, as if chasing its tail; and would culminate with the dog either falling over (while his legs continued to "run") or shooting off like a bullet in some random direction, to return once the fit had subsided. Any veterenarians out there familiar with this?
whang, (n., WHANG), a sharp, tart or spicy taste. Also occasionally a sharp blow, especially one delivered by a skillet. "That chili has quite a whang to it." Also a large crowd. "There was a whole whang of people watching the parade."
woods colt, a child born out of wedlock.
working alive, an adjectival phrase describing a densely-packed mass of organisms. The surface of the lake roiled by a large school of fish might be said to be working alive. A corncob pulled out of a compost heap might be working alive with red worms or night crawlers. The crowded sidewalks of New York might be working alive with pedestrians. "I heard buzzing and so I looked into that hollow tree stump for bees. The whole thing was working alive."
yea, (YAY), thus, like this, like so. An accompanying hand gesture usually indicates size or degree. "The grass was yea high." "He fished all day and caught a half-dozen fish about yea big." "He was leaned up against the car like yea."
yonder, (n. YON-dur), in the distance, over there somewhere. "Look over yonder."