Eleven Southern Words to Keep in Your Vocabulary Toolbox

Grayson McDowell, Staff Writer

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It takes an outsider to see the beauty of a dialect. Although I am Southern boy, born and raised, the study of linguistics gives an outsider’s perspective on every aspect of language. While you may think that only “proper” English is acceptable for essays and short stories, the Southern dialect represents the very roots and personality of English. If you want that down-home, Anglo-Saxon warmth to punctuate the dull, highfalutin Latinates, or you need a quick translator, here are eleven words to keep in your vocabulary toolbox.

  1. yonder (adv.)- (commonly mispronounced “yunder”) This word is also a Ye Olde English determiner. It refers to some place usually indicated by context or gesture. Example: “Go out yonder to the dog house, Roscoe!”
  2. tote (v.)- to carry by hand usually with a handle Example: “Would you help me tote these groceries to the car?”
  3. kin (n./adj.)- those who are related to each other; family. Example: Christmas is a time to gather with kith and kin. (derivatives: kinfolk(s), akin, kinsman)
  4. folk(s) (n./adj.)- people (less congenial in connotation); a conglomerate of persons like an audience. Example: “Folks, thank you for coming!” 2. a people as a collective or relating to a people’s culture (derivatives: merfolk, etc.) Example: She enjoyed reading books on Cherokee folk tales.
  5. beholden (adj.)- indebted; owing something more by moral obligation than legal entitlement. Example: The recipients of a church’s charity often feel beholden to attend.
  6. yellow (adj.)- (derogatory) cowardly; lacking pluck or courage (derivatives: “yellow-bellied,” etc.) Example: “Flatlander folk are often too yellow to venture up the Appalachians.”
  7. josh (v.)- to kid or jest; Example: “Are you joshing me?”
  8. reckon (v.)- to figure; to consider; to guess. Example: He reckoned that with four hours to spare, there was enough time for a siesta.
  9. supper (n.)- a meal usually eaten in the evening; the result of supping. Example: “Stay for supper! We’ll have ham, your favorite!”
  10. poke (n.)- (chiefly Appalachian) a small sack or bag. Example: “I saw a little boy trudging up the road with a paper poke of groceries.”
  11. buggy (n.)- a cart or small vehicle with four wheels that is pushed or pulled by hand or by a work animal. Example: The babe was situated in a cozy pink buggy rolling down the sidewalk.
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