'Fixin', 'Mash' and 'Dip' - Localisms From Readers
In nearby Hoke County, where veteran Pilot photographer Glenn M. Sides grew up, folks would look at an ominous sky and remark, "Looks like it's comin' up a cloud."
But when the clouds began to disperse, according to my old newspaper colleague Hal Tarleton, neighbors in his home county of Anson would comment that it was "about to fair off."
Works for me.
Glenn and Hal were among a number of readers who responded to my column of last week - and subsequent Facebook posting - in which I remarked about several linguistic regionalisms I had to get used to upon moving to (western) North Carolina back in 1973.
They included referring to Cokes and other bottled carbonated beverages as "drinks"; saying "hey" instead of "hi"; using "a couple of" to mean several; and speaking of "cutting on the lights."
"Hey," began local resident Jim Russell, who went on to report: "In Knightdale, we 'raised the window down.' We often 'carried' each other places, as in, 'Will you carry me to the store?' And, of course, we were always 'fixin' to do this or that."
(I'd forgotten about that "carrying" business. I remember being quite concerned as a newcomer to Morganton when my new boss, News Herald Publisher J.D. Fitz, offered to "carry" me to the doctor's office after I had suffered a minor injury. He was a pretty burly guy, and the office wasn't far. But still ...)
Russell did chide me a bit about referring in my column to buying those soft drinks in "the quaintly named Winn-Dixie store." He reminded me that that grocery chain, quaint or no, had its headquarters in Florida, from which I had just moved at the time. Mea culpa.
"The shocking thing for me," he added, "was discovering that the Piggly Wiggly stores are out of Keene, N.H. Who would have thunk it?"
Wrote Gary Mott, of Pinehurst:
"Having moved to North Carolina from Long Island, N.Y., 23 years ago, I too was confronted with some puzzling Southern uses of simple words or phrases. How about using 'mash' to signify pushing a button or switch?"
Yep. "Mash that button, will you?" That's another classic I failed to mention.
"I was the assistant baseball coach at West Brunswick High School," Mott went on, "and one day the head coach asked me to run down to the convenience store before a game and pick him up 'a drink, a can of dip and a pack of Nabs.' Asked him to clarify his order. Well, a drink was a 'Coke' - you know, like Mountain Dew. 'Dip' was Kodiak smokeless tobacco. And, of course, a pack of 'Nabs' was any pack of Nabisco crackers. How did I not know all that?
"Anyway, my all-time favorite phrase, being a retired Highway Patrol officer, is the description of any motor vehicle accident as a 'wreck.' It can be a minor scraping of two fenders or a complete totaling of the vehicle. Doesn't matter, it's still a wreck. ... But like you, I'm proud to reside in the Tar Heel State and will forever be thankful to call North Carolina home."
As for that business about "cutting on the lights," Bob Zschoche of Whispering Pines offered a theory:
"When electricity was first made available - think the Rural Electrification Administration - electric wires were brought into existing houses. Inside the house, surface-mounted wires were common. Wires ran down the wall to a lever type of switch. You turned the lever to open the circuit - turn the lights off - or turned it to close the circuit - turn the lights on. You were in effect, cutting the wire."
I'll accept that explanation, even though Bob says it is "not Wikipedia-approved."
Lastly, K.C. Sorvari, of Aberdeen, offered this:
"Having been born in New York City and raised way above the Mason-Dixon Line, I found many language shifts when I moved to North Carolina in my 30s. My hot dog 'all the way' simply did not resemble what I was used to, although I've come to like a Carolina hot dog. And the first time my boss (a happily married man) asked me to 'get up with him in the morning' - well, I had to contemplate that for a while."
Hmm. Never thought of it that way.
Steve Bouser is opinion editor of The Pilot. Contact him at (910) 693-2470 or by email at email@example.com.
More like this story