Friday, June 4, 2010

Culture Shock v.2

I am a grammar snob. I blame good high school English teachers and a father and late grandmother who can't help but call you on it every time you end a sentence with a preposition or use "me" when you should say "I."

But I offer no excuses. Because I continue to wonder, how can people who seem otherwise well-educated fall into speech patterns that lack any semblance of proper grammar?

You know how sometimes you reply with "good" when someone asks how you're doing, even though you know full well you should really be saying "well." but you just can't bring yourself to do it for fear of sounding pretentious? Maybe it's kind of like that. Nonetheless, it kills me just a little inside every time I hear the following phrases:

Might could
Definition: I'm still not really sure. I think it means "maybe."
Usage example: I might could run to the store after work.

Fixin' to
(Yes, the lack of a "g" and the apostrophe are quite intentional.)
Definition: Getting ready to, either in the immediate future or sometime down a long, ambiguous road.
Usage example: I'm fixin' to leave work for the day. OR I'm fixin' to get a dog.

Aimin' to
Definition: Sort of similar to the above, but my guess is it has something more to do with achieving a goal.
Usage example: I'm aimin' to buy a new car.

Do what?
(This one needs to be pronounced in the following way: DOOOO WHUUUUUUUTT. In other words, draw out the "u" sound as long as possible.)
Definition: Quite simply, the word "do" is unnecessarily placed before the word "what" in any normal question situation where you'd ask someone, "What?" This is baffling to me and I will never understand it.
Usage example: Are you coming to dinner?
Do what?
I said, are you coming to dinner?

I wouldn't mind to
Definition: This is a made-up verb conjugation that uses the infinitive instead of the gerund. See below:
Usage example: I wouldn't mind to go to the movies.
INSTEAD of: I wouldn't mind GOING to the movies.

where/where at
Definition: The preposition "at" is unnecessarily added on to any otherwise normal usage of the question, "Where?"
Usage example: Where is the party at? OR Where are you at?

Definition: While the proper usage of "whenever" is for referring to vague, rather than specific, or multiple, references to time, here, "whenever" also can be used in place of "when" during times referring to a single, specific instance.
Usage example: Whenever I was at the grocery store the other day, I ran into my boss.

There's no tellin' OR just: No tellin'
Definition: No clear or rational reason exists for why x happened OR Anything could happen at any time and there's no controlling it. Or something like that. This phrase is always uttered with a rolling of the eyes or some otherwise overdramatic gesture.
Usage example: Why didn't so-and-so come to work today?
There's no tellin'...
OR Why isn't so-and-so married yet?
No tellin.'

P.S. In conclusion, why is there no Urban Dictionary for Southernisms?

P.P.S. My dear Southern linguist readers, please weigh in on my accuracy in conveying the meanings of these phrases. My intention is never to offend, so bless my little Yankee heart if I at all came across that way.


  1. Sam-I'm Nancy - Jillian's Mom from Dallas. I have enjoyed reading your blog. Please come to Texas with Jill sometime and meet her grandfather (my Dad). You will hear more southern phrases/sayings than you can imagine. He still comes up with one or two occasionally that I have never heard! He's a funny man and a wonderful story teller!! Looking forward to meeting you when I am back in LR!!

  2. I think your definitions are correct. However, I have to disagree with your assessment. I don't die a little inside when I hear these phrases - I LOVE them. As my mom mentioned, that's possibly because I can hear my grandfather saying them. ha

    Also, it might be a bit sad to admit, but I didn't realize that some of these phrases were necessarily Southern. They sound pretty normal to me, but there's just no tellin'. :)

  3. I think "might could" shows a debate is still going on in the head of the speaker. Like they're almost convinced. Or they're trying to convince you.

    It's a little bit different than a simple maybe. (I've put way too much thought into this particularly because I used the phrase recently without even thinking about it! Imagine my horror! (right up there with saying Coke!))

  4. Addendum: Yesterday, I heard yet another version of "might could" -- MIGHT OUGHT. This one may just take the cake.