Thursday, September 17, 2009


Words and Phrases from the Hill Country

by Terry Thornton

Today continues a twenty-two part series of words and phrases with Hill Country examples. Each week this space will be devoted to Southern Expressions That Will Take The Rag Off the Bush.

This series is dedicated to the anonymous reader of Hill Country who left a comment on one of my other articles about southern words and expressions. Anon exclaimed that the article "just takes the rag off the bush." The comment tickled me but good. In fact, I'd never heard that expression so I had to do some quick reading to determine if I'd been complimented or if I'd been insulted.

After discovering that "to take the rag off the bush" is a perfectly good old-timey compliment, I am using this expression for the title of this series. I hope these articles will capture the full meaning of the phrase "to surpass; to beat all" and maybe this series will be so good that it will also "snatch the bush right up out of the ground, roots, and all."

Here are some words and expressions you may wish to work into your conversations this week. Impress your friends and family --- and, at the same time, help keep these old sayings alive.

Adobie or Adobe: The little shanty on Firetower Road had a chimney built of adobies, sticks, and a lot of hand-plastered red mud (sun-dryed bricks).

Barbecue: Southerners love to barbecue and to eat barbecue (broil; dish cooked by broiling over live coals). In addition to being a cooking technique or a cooked dish, the word probably goes back to Native Americans and to a river in North Carolina called the Barbecue River.

Caboodle: I'll whup the whole caboodle of them flat-landers if'n they bother me again (entire company or crowd).

Cavort: Why those folks just cavort around all the time (prance about; useless activity of a self-serving type).

Cussedness: Grandpa's old mule had a wide streak of cussedness in him (mischief or wickedness).

Eenamost or e'eny most: At five years of age he knew the whole poem e'eny most by heart (even almost or nearly).

Gallinipper: Some years the gallinippers are so big why I can even tell the girl ones from the boy ones just by watching them fly by (very large mosquito). And to clear up any confusion or twittering, it is easy to tell the difference. The girl gallinipper's have eye lashes whereas the boy ones don't.

Half-horse and half-alligator: He was thought to be the sort of man who was half-horse and half-alligator (originally a ludicrous name for frontiermen, especially boatmen, to describe a manly man; came to mean a strong man who could be counted on to get things done; also used as a put-down to be described as such).

Jimber-jawed: He was a tall, skinny, young man who was the most jimber-jawed creature I'd ever seen (large projecting lower jaw). Also called gimbal-jawed.

Nary or nary nother: I'm not going on nary nother hay ride with Susanne again (nary, a corruption of never a; nother, a corruption of another). Nary nother is one of my favorite Hill Country expressions.

Paw-paw: He has gone down in the bottom to gather paw-paws (fruit of the Paw-paw tree).

Sam Hill: How in the Sam Hill does she sing those high notes and warble on like that (euphemism for the Devil)?

Smudge: Our host finally fired up enough smudges that the mosquitoes and knats and no-see-ums finally let us have some peace (smoky fire burned to chase aways insects). Often used as Smudge-pots.

Tough it out: I guess we will just have to tough it out until the political situation changes (to endure; to survive).

This is it for today's list of words and phrases --- not a nary nother one. I don't have time to cavort around more this day. You'll just have to tough it out until next time when I return with more words and expressions to help you get into a Hill Country frame of mind. Besides there is the biggest gallinipper I've ever seen buzzing my head --- and I've got to get a fly-swatter to get rid of that varmint. Maybe frost will soon come and remove this plague from us.


Terry Thornton is a retired college administrator and former Amory Middle School principal who resides in Fulton. He can be contacted by email at



Dorene from Ohio said...

I love that word caboodle!

BeNotForgot said...

My maternal grandma was out picking up paw-paws in Maine on the day she met my maternal grandpa. She was a 16-year-old petite dark haired dark eyed beauty, the daughter of York County florists / landscapers. He had blue eyes and sandy hair and was a 23-year-old tall and lanky son of a Texas farmer who was in Maine with a shipmate while on leave from the Navy. Thanks for mentioning paw-paws!