5The United States is a big place of distinct regions with — historically speaking, at least — their own unique customs, preferences and ways of speaking.

My mother worried about what she called the “homogenization” of our nation as technology, especially television, allowed us to take a good look at each other and see how people in other parts of the country look and live.

She was especially concerned about the loss of regional speech, and she was right to worry.

To some extent, many of us have begun to sound like announcers on TV with no distinct accent or figures of speech.
But not everyone, thank goodness!

The Raleigh News & Observer published a wonderful article last month by longtime culture reporter, Martha Quillin, with the headline “We’re fixin’ to teach you to talk like an NC native: A Guide to Southern Sayings,” which my mother would have loved.

Quillin rightly points out that North Carolina has 3 distinct regions — coastal plain, piedmont and mountains. Our community straddles the coastal plain and piedmont regions, giving us some speech and culture from both.

In all regions, speech has elements of Native American language as well as those of European settlers and enslaved peoples from Africa. For those among us who are new to North Carolina and her particular ways of speech, here goes, with some from Quillin and some from me.

When North Carolinians call an elevator, we “mash” the button. Apparently, everyone else “pushes” it.

When we want or do not want to illuminate a room, we “’cut” the lights on or off. “Cutting” applies to all electrical appliances, i.e., anything that plugs in.

If life is going well for you, you might “be living high on the hog,” a reference to a better cut of meat.

You might also be “in high cotton,” as opposed to low cotton which is hard on the back during picking season.

“Jeet yet?” You might ask this of a family member to learn whether he or she has already had lunch.

Toboggans are knitted caps for cold weather, and sleds are conveyances to ride upon over increasingly rare snow.

“I’m going to snatch you bald-headed” might be said by an exasperated parent or babysitter to a misbehaving child, but I have never heard of anyone actually doing this.

“May I have a word of prayer with you?” might also be said by a parent or exasperated caretaker to a teenager who needs a bit of behavioral counseling in private.

I once heard a disgusted judge ask dueling attorneys to step up to the bench for “a word of prayer.” This might also be described as a “come to Jesus” meeting.

A petite person might not be “big as a minute.”

A boring person might be “dull as dishwater.”

A fatigued person might be “tired as all get out.”

A person with what the Dicksons call “high self-esteem” might be “getting too big for her britches.”

And, a chronic liar might prefer to “climb a thorny tree and tell a lie than stand on the ground and tell the truth.”

If I ask you if you would like a ride to the store, you might say, “thank you, but my brother is going to carry me.” He might also carry the groceries inside.

Some Southernisms may have gone by the wayside.

I must have told a whopper in early childhood, because my Kinston born and bred grandmother squeezed me by the shoulders, held me eyeball to eyeball, and hissed, “Margaret Dawson, don’t you EVER tell me a teewiddie again!”

I did not know that word, have rarely heard it since and only in eastern North Carolina, and have no idea how to spell it, but her message came through loud and clear.
She also said she would do something “directly,” which meant soon, and “much obliged” for thank you.

My mother was right.

As our nation and world become more accessible, we are losing some of our regional peculiarities. But North Carolina continues to take pride in what is special here, and welcome to all our newbies.

We are “mighty glad” to have you!

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