Thursday, July 9, 2009

Texas Talk

An online friend is moving to Austin shortly, so I thought that big event merited a post devoted to Texas sayings. So this is for you, Era! (Check out her blog on Today's Thought.) If you need a reminder about living in our fair city, check out the "Rules for Living in Austin." There will be a test.

Here below, from Rice University's website, is a page called "Texas Talk." It outlines many of the sayings one might hear in the Lone Star state, but then again, maybe not. :) A lot of the sayings listed are ones that I haven't ever heard, even though I grew up in Redneck, Texas, and lived there my whole childhood (don't bother trying to find it on a map).

So, Era, we're mighty proud to call you one of our own. I'm so happy I'm just all swoled up like a stomped on toad frog. Shoot, I think you'll take to Austin pert near right away. When ya get here, just hunker down in the cool AC and wait it out 'til we git our next gully-washer. It was 108 yesterday, and today's lookin ta be hotter. Myself, I'm fixin' to make me a mess a iced tea. Welcome!

Texas Talk
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:

  • ugly as a mud fence
  • ugly as homemade sin
  • ugly as homemade soap
  • plug-ugly
  • 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 nervous.)
  • 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 proportions.)
  • 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 anatomy.)
  • Look at somebody/something like a calf looks at a new gate. (With either confusion or dismay, maybe?)

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.


If you liked this post, you might like "Rules for Living in Austin"

Picture of Texas flag by Brian L. Romig from here


  1. The list does not include the one that gets me every time, and I look eyes poppingly in disbelief at the speaker: "would you like a sack?"

    A sack?

    Of what? potatoes?

    Sorry, where I come from, we have sacks of flour, potatoes etc and we sack people for being incompetent. We don't put groceries and purchases in sacks!

  2. I remember my Texan roomie in college always saying "warsh" the dishes, or whathaveyou.

    Did I just miss it, or is the lovely phrase "might could" missing from that list? Otherwise, it's a great compendium!

  3. I will be studying up for my Texas debut. This reminds me of one of my father's sayings "it's as crooked as a bull's behind".