Excerpts from an Armadillo-Watch Strand
Once upon a time, way up in yankeeland, a lady author found herself needing some help
with her research. Texas Tawk, that's what she was looking for. The genuine article.
So she launched a search on the internet, casting her cursor hither and yon. Just when
she thought she'd have to give up and make up the tawk herself, she latched on to the end
of a string and found the Armadillo Watch.
She e-mailed them an SOS, and lo and behold, they came to her rescue--the nicest,
friendliest bunch of folks you'd ever want to come across. There were teachers and lawyers
and world travelers and lady ranchers and all kinds of fun, interesting people willing to
share the rich heritage of their Texas way of tawking.
They asked the yankee lady if she would mind collecting all their entries, and she
said, "Sure'nuff." (After all, they were teaching her how to tawk right). So
here they are, the combined offerings of the Dillos, Texas Tawk for the ages. Enjoy!
In late November of 1995, Kathy Di Santo wrote the Armadillo-watch group:
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 1995 16:02:43 -0500
Reply-To: Armadillo-Watch List
Sender: Armadillo-Watch List
From: "Kathy M. DiSanto"
Subject: Sayings of Texas
To: Multiple recipients of list DILLO
There I was, rooting around on the internet, looking for sayings/colloquialism of
Texas, and I came across a partial message from Martha Kate King. She mentioned somebody
named Bob. Now, I'm not sure which one of you can explain about larruping, blue northers,
campbellites, etc., but I'm asking you PLEASE to let me in on the lingo.
I'm a writer, researching for my next book, and I really need to know.
Well, that kicked off a strand of discussion on Texas Talk that went on and on. Its all
archived in the November and December 1995 Armadillo-watch archives, and below is Kathy
DiSanto's reconstruction of the whole enchilada.
- used to describe everything from mild annoyance to dangerous, murderous rage. Usually
- all swole up
- an alternative to aggravated, but sometimes carries connotations of being obstinate,
proud and self-abosorbed, in addition to being aggravated.
- all choked up
- upset, overcome with emotions (other than aggravation). A person is usually "all
choked up" when they are deeply moved by sadness or by the thoughtfulness of others.
- all worked up
- in a state of aggravation, arousal of some type, in a state of deeply offended pride,
offended sensibilities, in a state of anxiety, etc. Agitated.
- a synonym for coffee, when the Arbuckle brand was virtually the only one available.
- usually means football.
- adjective used to describe milk that has begun to sour.
- blue norther
- storm that comes up as a giant, blue-black cloud of cold air comes over the warm gulf
air and "just about freezes us to death!" Rain and wind may accompany the black
- catty whompus
- used to describe something that doesn't fit properly or is out of line.
- clabber milk
- butter milk
- come hell or high water
- shows determination to proceed, regardless of the problems, obstacles, etc.
- to have conniptions is to get upset and raise a ruckus.
- tough and/or bad tempered man, woman or horse.
- dad blame it, dad gum it, dag nab it
- euphamisms coined to allow expressive speech without swearing.
- depending on the Dillo, this can be the noontime meal or the evening meal.
- eat up
- eaten up, destroyed, oxidized.
- fess up
- fit to be tied
- really upset.
- food; the rest of the meal, excluding the main dish.
- fixin' ta
- getting ready to do something.
- an extraordinary amount of rain.
- an old cowboy term meaning "old rascal." It's generally meant affably.
- go ahead on
- "You go ahead, I'll catch up later."
- go to the house
- go in for dinner/supper, depending on the Dillo.
- an extraordinary amount of rain.
- hissy fit
- This term was never actually defined, but I get the impression it's a state of extreme
agitation and not a pretty thing to see.
- How do you do?
- i'll swan
- used instead of "I swear."
- a few fingers tastier than finger-lickin' good.
- lit out
- took off, started out, or absconded across some terrain.
- a pretty girl.
- a loner, an independent cuss, wild. First used to describe cattle owned by Sam Maverick
of Galveston Island. His cattle were "wild-like" and he'd swim them across West
Bay and join up with the herd going north. When cattle broke the herd, the wranglers said,
"That's one of Maverick's."
- a storm; not as bad as a blue norther.
- ole cuss
- and old rascal (or galoot) who is tough and/or bad-tempered.
- over yonder
- a directional phrase meaning "over there."
- over in through there, also: you go up in through there.
- Directional phrase; one I'm told foreigners (read: anybody except a Texan) have trouble
- an individual's farm or ranch.
- common mutt horse.
- see above. This is definitely not a compliment, and should not be treated as such.
- knocked down, smashed flat, with dramatic force.
- post oak
- wood that is hard and resistant to rot and can be used for fenceposts.
- ridin' high
- doin' aw'right; probably a reference to the quality of horse you are riding. If you're
poor, you ride a burro (short) or a plug. If you're wealthy, you might ride a thoroughbred
or Tennessee Walker; therefore, you're ridin' high.
- an expletive (should be used with an exclamation point).
- a piece of wood that is cut on an angle is cut slaunchways.
- a particularly important Texas adjective meaning worthless, no-count, useless, bad.
Enhanced inflection makes it more emphatic.
- squaddies (or is that quaddies?)
- cowboys. This was a very common term in the 19th century.
- Once again, depending on the Dillo, this can be either the noon or the evening meal.
- sweet milk
- milk that tastes good.
- a very heavy downpour.
- taken to
- began, adapted, started liking. Use #l: He's taken to drinking." Use #2: She's
taken to that new job of hers right off."
- the friendly creature
- 19th century term for whiskey.
- to spill or dump
- walkin' in tall cotton
- doin' aw'right (see ridin' high)
- as far as I can tell, this is an extremely useful, if somewhat vague verb of many uses.
It's usually used as a past participle. "The wheel was wallered out." or
"The Dillo List wallered down an gave that little nawthun lady a bunch of Texas
- whole nuther thing
- soemthing else entirely
- when something is not fitting properly, e.g., "You'll never get that wine open, the
corscrew is all whomperjawed!"
- wore out
- fatigued, exhausted; also sometimes used for "worn out" machinery, etc.
- type of human who is at the bottom of many Texas methaphysical, moral and cultural
paradigms. Damnyankee is thought to be objectively descriptive rather than profane, and it
is comfortably accomodated in some social environments where "bad language" is
otherwise controlled by inherent coercive prohibitions. (Note: Although it is often said
that damnyankees do a pretty good job of compiling Texasisms.)
"Out of the Mouths of Texans."
A group of descriptive phrases, many of them similes. I've grouped them according to .
. . well, you'll see.
You don't want to hear a Texan say you're:
- ugly as a mud fence
- ugly as homemade sin
- ugly as homemade soap
- all hat and no cattle
- dumber than dirt
- older than two trees
- tighter than bark on a tree
- like ugly on an ape
- dumb as a box of rocks
- crooked as a dog's hind leg
- crooked as a barrel of snakes
- dumb as a box of hammers
- as handy as hip pockets on a hog (If a Texan says this, it's a compliment (honest!)
- You're cute as a possum.
- You're happy as a gopher in soft dirt.
- You're tough as a boot.
- You're quick as a hiccup.
- You're wolverine mean.
- You'll do to run the river with. (This means you're reliable.)
- You're big enough to hunt bear (bar) with a switch. (You're very big.)
- You just don't know what he might do. (This, I'm told is the safest reputation to
have around potentially violent fellow Texans.)
Emotional states in the state of Texas:
- Happy as a gopher in soft dirt.
- Like a one-legged man at a butt-kicking contest. (I assume this would mean you're
extremely frustrated, or perhaps out of place, or dumb as box of hammers.)
- Like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. (Nervous. Very, very
- Like a gnat in a hail storm. (Evokes quite a picture, doesn't it?)
- Having a fit (or a hissy fit) and stepping in it. (Sounds like a tantrum of major
- Somebody who looks like he/she has been rode hard and put up wet. (A tired
individual who looks somewhat the worse for wear.)
Other Lonestar similes:
- He beat him like a rented mule. (Ouch!)
- Hidden in the basement like a crazy aunt.
- Blacker than midnight under a skillet.
- Fine as frog's hair.
- Like the dogs was after him. (In a big hurry.)
- Cold as a well digger's lunch pail. (This one is subject to some dispute, some
Dillos claiming the cold object in question is actually part of the well digger's personal
- Look at somebody/something like a calf looks at a new gate. (With either confusion
or dismay, maybe?)
What's a Texas Saying? Why, it's something they say in Texas, a course! Some of these
"sayings" might be considered adages, and some are just ... well, sayings, I
guess. Judge for yourself:
"Never ask a man if he's from Texas. If he is, he'll tell you on his own. If he
ain't, no need to embarrass him."
"The Lord never closes one door without opening another one."
"Evil thoughts are like chickens--they come home to roost."
"You can always tell a Texan, but you can't tell him much."
"I want you to jump when I say frog."
"Tend to your own knittin'/rat killin'." (Mind your own business!)
"_________________ (fill in the blank) is good enough to make a rabbit spit in a
bulldog's face." (This better be something awfully durned good!)
"If you've done it, it ain't braggin'."
"That's tellin' him how the cow ate the cabbage."
"You done stopped preachin' and gone to meddlin'." (You're sticking your nose
into my business, here, pal.)
Now, if you're gonna say things Texans say, you've got to be sure to get the
pronunciation right. Here are a few tips:
In Texas, the "g" in the suffix "ing" is silent. Thus, "fixing
to" becomes "fixin' to."
chester drawers: that piece of furniture you put your socks in.
nuther thing: another thing
hairyew: a greeting used when one wants to discern the physical and emotional wellbeing
of his/her companion.
ah'mo: I am going to. E.g.: "Ah'mo get back to work."
sure'nuff: (one word). Used as a superfluous question in place of "Really?"
or "Is that right?" Also used as an adverb in sentences.
rench: the process of laving with water, possibly to remove soap or shampoo. You can
also "rench out" socks, if you've a mind to.
warsh: the process one engages in before renching.
One other item of pronuncuation involves a popular expletive that damnyankees usually
give just one measly syllable. I have it on good authority, however, that Texans have been
known to stretch the "S" word into two, and in some extreme cases, three
syllables. (It should be noted that the added syllables involve a long "e"
sound, coupled with a short "u".) I leave the rest to the reader's imagination.
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March 2, 1996