Texas Talk

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.


Kathy DiSanto

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 pronounced "agger-vated."
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 cloud.
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 understanding.
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 Tawk."
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:

Emotional states in the state of Texas:

Other Lonestar similes:

Texas Sayings

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