Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Grammar gremlins everywhere

The longer I live (now in my 66h year), the more I see and hear people misuse the English language.

We used to call it "correct grammar" when we spoke and wrote appropriately.

Grammar is not at a premium in eastern Tennessee.

People in "them thar mountains" seem to have problems in particular with verb tenses. Note, for example, the picture (accompanying this blog post) that I snapped at the Veterans Administration Hospital Pharmacy in Johnson City, Tennessee: "If you seen a Dr today..."

Some examples of the verbal debauchery I hear in casual conversation quite frequently:

1. My husband ain't got no job.

2. He done it yesterdee.

3. I seen him in his car a goin' down the road.

4. He ain't done no good.

And here's one I heard in the mountains just the other day. (Breaks new ground in torturing our language):

"He's the spitefullest son-uv-a bitch you ever seen!"

When someone in East Tennessee refers to a crawfish, don't think about a creature that lives in a creek.

Rather, crawfish means to renege or go back on or violate what you previously promised, as in:

"Ole Tom said he'd git a job but he's a trying' ta crawfish outta it. He ain't done nothin' to go ta work."

If you read our novel (I have a co-author) Fish Springs: Beneath the Surface, you'll find many more examples of "mountain dialect."

It was a challenge to recall and write it, but it was also fun. I drew upon years of writing colorful colloquialisms I had heard in Tennessee (and elsewhere) to give readers a sense of how hillbillies talk.

So take it in that spirit.

One last tidbit: My Mom, who passed away in July 2013 at age 87 in Elizabethton, Tennessee, told me about hearing an acquaintance (an elderly gentleman) declare that he had to go see a "choir practice" because of his aches and pains.

Mom said she scratched her head in puzzlement, then later in the conversation deduced that the man actually had an appointment with a chiropractor.

To this day when someone tells me they're going to see a chiropractor, I correct them and say: "You mean you're actually going to a choir practice?"

Totally unrelated note: I love my "new" wheels--a 2012 Subaru Outback. Got it about 10 days ago, and it's really peppy, has loads of cargo space and grips (all-wheel drive) the road! Here's a photo: