Madame Director

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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?”

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A Littleville Dictionary -Addendum

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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; 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

Um

Hello

Glad to meet you

Goodbye

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

Congratulations!

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!

A Littleville Dictionary

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Have I mentioned that Andrew and I love Littleville?  18 years in, and one child born here, we are so at home we’ve picked our cemetery.  When the kids became old enough, we would leave them for an hour or so on sun-spangled Saturday afternoons for a motorcycle date – a free and glorious ride down county roads that smelled of earth and looked like heaven.   Gradually our motorcycle dates took the same road every time – past the gun club and stone house, a wave at the turn to Dale and Christie’s, across the low bridge in the curve, through the four-way that got hit hard by the tornado, and up the gravel path to the hilltop cemetery marked with a wrought-iron sign.  It was a peaceful place to talk and wander.

Those dates are on hiatus for now because one Moto Guzzi motorcycle is worth a few months of college tuition.  But I am not complaining.  The memories are close to perfect.

Meanwhile, because I am Littlevillian enough to plan to be buried here, I feel qualified to compile a list of local terms and usages that newcomers need to know.

comeapart – noun;  meltdown, tantrum.  “Skylar had a comeapart at Walmart because I wouldn’t buy him a Minecraft Lego set.”

complete comeapart – noun; total and complete meltdown. “Skylar had a complete comeapart when I told him that because of his comeapart I was taking the batteries out of his RC Nano-Falcon helicopter and keeping them.”

ill – adjective; pronounced ‘eel’, in a bad humor, grouchy, bad tempered.  “Skylar was just ill, so we went on back to the house.”

ideal – noun; idea, plan, scheme.  “My ideal was to put the Christmas tree to the right of the window and decorate it in all Auburn.”
*This is so accepted a way to say ‘idea’ that a series of hardbound ‘how to’ craft books at the library is entitled ‘Christmas Ideals.’

squall – verb; cry loudly, vehemently, or with great emotion.  “I just squalled and squalled overThe Notebook.”

tickled – adjective; highly pleased, glad.  “We are so tickled that y’all have been part of the whole wedding weekend.”
*This word is perfectly acceptable for an adult man to use and lose none of his virile masculinity.  It’s endearing.  Usually preceded by ‘so,’ it is pronounced ‘sa tickled.’

carry – verb;  to take or bring a person by vehicle.  “I carried Misty to the drug store to get a humidifier for the baby.”
*This one takes a little getting used to because to the uninformed it seems that the speaker is bodily carrying Misty, when in reality it is a vehicular carry.

rotten – adjective; spoiled, bratty.  “He’s just rotten.”
*This adjective is reserved for male toddlers and is used by grandmothers and mothers.  With pride.

‘I don’t care to’I don’t mind.  Though it looks the opposite, this phrase signifies compliance and willingness.  “I don’t care to babysit.  What time?”

Decoration – noun; one of four Sundays in May in which descendants converge on the rural family church and change out the flowers on the graves of ancestors.  Dinner on the grounds and hymnsings accompany this warm reunion.  “Pastor Andrew,   we can’t have our covered dish that day.  It’s Decoration!!”

mash – verb; push, press.  “I mashed the button, but nothing happened!”  “Well, mash it again!”

proud – adjective; glad, happy.  “Thanks for carrying Mother to Belk’s for the Red Dot Special.”  “Oh, I was proud to do it.”

‘s – The possessive ‘s’ is added liberally to businesses whose names end in a consonant, i.e. Belk’s, Walmart’s, Kmart’s, Shogun’s, etc.  This makes perfect sense and needs no defense.

evening – noun; afternoon.  “We ‘ll go this evening around 3:00.”

set – verb; sit.  “My glasses were setting right on the counter by the Shopper’s Guide.”  “Don’t leave your dirty dishes setting in the break room.”

giveout – adjective; exhausted, done in, faint from hunger.  “I was giveout from ball.”

ball – noun; baseball, softball.  Pronounced ‘mbaw’, this word encompasses the whole of the sport from Park and Rec to high school, from tryouts to final series, to practices, travel ball, tourneys, the whole package.  It is never confused with any other ball sport.  ‘Ball’ refers to a season, to a life.  “This’ll be my last Girls’ Night because ball starts.”

the beach – noun; Gulf Shores, Alabama.  There are no other beaches.  “We’re off Monday, so we’re going to the beach.  We are taking Tyler’s little girlfriend.”

little girlfriend/little boyfriend – noun; teenaged girlfriend or boyfriend.  Under 20, one’s steady dating partner is referred to as ‘little’ no matter their size.  “Jaylyn’s little boyfriend is starting at center this year.  He’s precious.”

This partial list is offered with joy and humility and the knowledge that lifelong Littlevillians will be puzzled over it.  What, they will ask, is odd about these words, or worthy of note?

What indeed?