It’s official. I’m an old guy. This really isn’t about my age or how I feel, but rather about the fact that I have kids who speak a different language than my own. The confusion points out that there is, indeed, a gap, and never has this been more clearly brought to light than by the fact that I have to continually turn to the internet to figure out what these young people around me are saying. Their terms like “cray” and “trillin'” don’t bother me, but the fact that I have to do research just to figure out what they’re trying to communicate truly does.
It makes me think, though, about the vocabulary that country folks use. More than once we’ve found ourselves having to explain what we mean to our city brethren, even though we’re speaking the same language. As a public service, then, I have developed this “Rural Dictionary” to help bridge this gap. The following words aren’t likely to be uttered in town, but if they are, they came from the mouth of a country kid, and I’m here to help you understand them:
Britches: (n) pants of any type. Oddly enough, derived from a British term, this would never be used by someone with city-type class. Will a country kid understand it, though? You bet your britches!
Cattywampus: (adv) crooked. If you can make sense of this term, you’re way ahead of anyone of us who has ever used it. It sounds just as off-kilter as what it represents.
Dang/dern/dadgum: (adj) darned. You can be as angry or frustrated you want around the kids with these catch-all terms.
Fur piece : (n) a long ways off. It sounds like a wig or a piece of roadkill, but it actually isn’t even really a thing. If someone tells you it’s a fur piece off, you know it’s gonna be awhile. (There’s no sense saying far when you can say fur. It’s just more fun).
Gussied/gussied up: (adj) dressed nicely. It might be pressed Wranglers and a snap shirt, but they’re better than the work Wranglers, and there aren’t as many snaps missing. Tip: if you see polish on the boots, the wearer is most likely gussied up.
Hankerin’: (n/v) craving. We don’t get hungry out our way – we have a hankerin’ for something. This is typically used of something very specific that affects our palate, such as in the phrase, “I’ve never had a hankerin’ for a hot dog in my life. Do you know what’s in them dern things?”
Hoss: (n) 1. horse. Switch a consonant, save a vowel. 2. a big guy. This can be a nickname (similar to dude, bro, homey), or even a term of endearment. Extended, it can be anything extraordinarily large, such as in the phrase, “When you get all gussied up in those britches, put on that hoss of a buckle to keep them from getting cattywampus!”
Howdy: (excl) hello. This term is the reduced form of the polite expression, how do you do? Country folks are kindhearted, and don’t have time to get through four words on our way to greeting others. Two syllables will do, thank you!
Learnt: (adj) educated. Oh, the irony.
Mosey: (v) to walk or move slowly. If swagger could be captured in slow motion, it would probably be the definition of moseying. One may mosey on foot or in a vehicle, but it is never done in a hurry, lest it be demoseified.
Ornery: (adj) obstinate, cranky. Your uncle that lived in that shack on the outskirts of town and thought everyone was out to get him? The one that wouldn’t share his beer? The one whose default expression was a scowl, and whose vocabulary enlarged yours in a direction where your mama didn’t approve? That hoss was ornery.
Reckon: (v) figger. Wait, then we have to define “figger.”
Sidewinder: (n) no-good person. This person is not pleasant to deal with, and will do you wrong if they get the chance. If heard about oneself, these may be deemed fighting words.
Smack dab: right there in the middle. There is no more specific direction in the world. Nothing has ever been smack dab on the edge or smack dab on the outskirts. No one ever put something smack dab to the left or right. If it’s smack dab, it’s in the middle, and if it isn’t… move it there.
Varmint: (n) see, Sidewinder above. Then punch that person. They have it coming by now.
Yahoo: (n) a clueless person. This is typically used of someone from the
city… know what? Never mind this term. We have enough terms by now anyway. I hope this little guide helps you to understand us better.