Madame Director


A student, let’s call him David, wrote the following on the board today during a word game – ‘expellion.’

Me:  That’s not a word.

David:  Who do I contact to make that a word?

After a good long laugh at the promptness of his reply, and the underlying assumption that there is one person, somewhere with that kind of authority, we proceeded to imagine the busy office of the one who decrees that a word is a word.  We envisioned giant stacks of paper on his old-timey desk, dwarves busy at filing cabinets, a secretary fielding incessant phone calls from people like us with great new words to submit for approval and inclusion in the official usage dictionary of American English.

And we all agreed that if ever a word deserved to be included, ‘expellion’ did.  Never mind that what David intended to write was ‘expelsion,’ which is also not a word, but is closer to getting at a noun form of ‘expel’ which is what he was going for.  We discussed the existence of ‘expulsion’ and agreed that there is still room for expellion as a less violent alternative.  I would rather experience expellion than expulsion any day.  And since the original word that prompted all this was ‘secretion,’ expellion sounds downright genteel and appropriate for polite conversation.

The conclusion I soon reached is that I would like to apply for the job of Director of the Bureau of Official Words (BOW).  I would like to be the paper-swamped person at the old-timey desk, because new words and new usages are so, so fun.

One example:  Dope.  When I was around six, circa 1971, my dad had a sober conversation with me about dope.  As I recall I had called my sister a dope, meaning a silly goof, but I remember that conversation as a light bulb moment that aha! words have different meanings.  Fast-forward several years – don’t do the exact math, OK? – and my 2015 college girl described her new ankle boots as ‘dope,’  ‘totally dope.’ Now I sat up and paid attention.  Her tone suggested high praise.  Note to self:  ‘dope’ is now an adjective meaning really, really good.  Duly noted.  Shortly afterward, the same daughter intensified her description of an Indian meal as ‘stupid good.’  Ahh, I said to myself, in full Director of BOW mode, ‘stupid’ is now an adverb intensifying an adjective.

So, when at school the next day one of my students complimented my socks, I utilized all my new knowledge and replied with sang-froid, “Yeah, they’re stupid dope, aren’t they?”


A Littleville Dictionary -Addendum


Thanks to contributions from both native and temporary Littlevillians, we have a brief addendum to the Littleville Dictionary.

Several of these words are not limited to Littleville, but are broader regional expressions.  We don’t claim them as ours exclusively.

One other disclaimer:  I’ve been informed that there is an actual Littleville on the map.  Our apologies to the real Littlevillians.  We are a very real place with the mythical name Littleville. All clear?

reckon – verb; figure, speculate, calculate.  “Reckon what time Dennis’ll get here?  I need those handrails put in.”

tump – verb; tip over, spill, upend.  “Get in the car, Max.  And don’t tump my Diet Mountain Dew!  That’s breakfast.”

Momma and them – noun, pronounced “Momma ‘nem”; Mother and any family residing at or regular visitors to the homeplace.  “Momma and them had some corn for us so we ran by to get it. Uncle Earl and Aunt Helen were there and we ended up staying for dinner.”

dinner – noun; any hot meal eaten from noon to 9:00 p.m.  “After dinner they all had a nap and Carla and I went by The Pig.”

The Pig – noun; a franchised but family-feeling grocery store named Piggly Wiggly whose logo is a helpful, enthusiastic pig in a grocer’s hat.  “Swing by The Pig and pick me up some Jiffy mix.  I’ve got to do something with all this corn.”
*The Pig is aware of its own appeal and sells T-shirts with slogans like ‘I dig The Pig’ and ‘What happens at The Pig stays at The Pig.’  And that’s why a grocery store called Piggly Wiggly still works in the 21st century.
*The receipt used to have a pig for all seasons at the top:  a patriotic pig holding a sparkler, a pilgrim pig holding a blunderbuss, and so on.  Alas.

coke – noun; ALL carbonated beverages*.  Period.  “I’ll get you a coke for your headache.  What kind do you want?”
*For some reason, other words for coke – pop, soda, cola – fill us with anxiety and outright hostility.  I apologize for this.
*Important:  This does not include Pepsi.  Some restaurants here have contracted with Pepsi.  We’re not sure why.  Bless their hearts.

Bless Your Heart – Now let me just pause a moment.  Many people have hazarded definitions of this versatile but precise phrase.  It takes a native to use it correctly, though it can be employed in a wide variety of life’s circumstances.  I am treading on holy ground here.  Among other things, it can mean:

You poor thing

I hope it resolves itself

It won’t and you are doomed

Thank goodness it’s you not me

I could have told you this would happen

Well, you tried

Sweet little baby



Glad to meet you


You are of a younger generation and I don’t know what to say to you


Well, what do you know?

I feel you

Come here

Intonation changes with each circumstance.  Usages might include:

“Bless your heart, come in!”

“Oh, an iPod, you say?  Well, bless your heart.”

“Bless her heart, and acid reflux on top of it all.”

“Bless your heart!  When’s the happy day?”

“Bless it.  Look at all that hair!”

“Bless your heart.  You just come live with Nana.”

“Well, bless your heart, we all said he was a mess on wheels.”

“Bless his heart.  His mother will never survive this.”

fixin’ – verb; preparing to, getting ready to, just about to.  “I’m fixin’ to get up and get going here in a minute.”
*This one is a common target for mockery, but shouldn’t be.  Try it.

here in a minute – adverb; soon.  See above.

covered up – adjective; busy, overwhelmed.  “Sorry I didn’t get back to you. We’ve been covered up.”

wet/dry – adjective; the county status in terms of alcohol sales. “Don’t tell Momma and them Carla’s daddy voted wet.”
*This one is so charged with emotional freight, that we forget how much it sounds like a diaper report.
*We’re wet now.  Though some would say ‘damp’ and others ‘sodden.’  But during the dry years, many a Littlevillian (me, anyway) witnessed to our amusement the poor interstate traveller stopping off for a hotel room and much anticipated beer.  He would look confused and ask where the beer aisle was, and the BP clerk would say, “We’re dry.”  Maybe it was the clerk’s accent, “Were drah.”   But the thirsty traveller, uncomprehending, would try again, “Where’s the beer?” Whereupon the clerk would repeat, “We’re dry.”  The traveller would begin to work through the implications of this. Incredulity would dawn on his slack face,  “Are you telling me . . .” And he would get back in his car and hit the interstate ramp, apoplectic and shouting at his indefatigable wife, “Can. You. Believe. A. Dry. Town?????”

 A warm Happy New Year to you and yours!