Lost language remembered
Published 2:15 pm Monday, October 2, 2006
I recently realized that I know some words and phrases from a lost language.
The language I'm talking about is spoken in English but has been lost to a progress, invention and socialization.
After watching an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” (still one of the best shows on television, in my opinion), I realized there were a few words used in conversation by the show's characters that were somewhat unfamiliar to me.
Quile - I'm not sure if the spelling is right, but if I understood the comment Andy made to Opie, I believe it means to “curl up.” My assumption at this definition was because Andy was asking a question Opie didn't want to answer and was pretending to be “mighty sleep, Pa,” to avoid. Andy told him that just as soon as he answered the question he could “quile” up and go to sleep. Yep, to quile up means to curl up.
After this I realized that it was a word that was used enough back in the early '60s, that television viewers across America knew what it meant without need of an explanation. But I can't recall ever having heard that word before seeing the show. I guess it is just another word that can be added to the lost language list.
I asked around the office and among some of my friends and we decided there are other words that we know the meanings of, but rarely hear and use even less frequently.
Here you will find a partial list that I have compiled. These words or phrases may be unique to our region, our town or even our families, but I'll bet you've heard a few. Chances are, however, that you won't hear anything on this list spoken by anyone under the age of 35.
Britches - another word for pants. I have heard this one used recently. But it was the first time in a long time that I can recall the word being used.
Penders - same thing as peanuts. My daddy used this word frequently during my childhood. Older people still use the phrase, but again, not one person under 30 or so will even know what you're talking about unless you put the word boiled in front of it. Maybe not even then.
Light Bread - I'm thinking most folks refer to this as sandwich bread, loaf bread or just bread. I've heard this phrase used by many people, but most of them are over the age of 60.
Step-ins - most women will know what these are even if we don't call them that. This part of delicate under apparel has also been referred to as bloomers, but usually when talking about clothing for little girls or cheerleaders.
Hope - this is a word my daddy used frequently. He'd be 74 if he were still living, so that may give you some idea on how old the use of the word is. He used the word like I would use the word help, as in “I'll ‘hope' you with that as soon as I'm through with this.”
Oopsie-Daisy - pretty self-explanatory. You just may use the word oops, it means the same thing.
P-shaw - I'm not sure where this word would have gotten it's start, but I never did really understand the “p” on it. I've heard my aunt use the word. If I'm right, it means something like “you're kidding.”
Privy - now this word has had two meanings that I can recall. One meaning referred to a little house in the back yard used for those personal moments. The Sears and Roebuck Catalog was usually found in this little house. The other meaning indicates that you have an unlimited amount of access to information, as in “I was privy to the information about the divorce that the public wasn't told.”
Holler - yelling is the same thing in this case. I have also heard this word used when referring to a valley on a piece of property. These days there is a similar word used by teens, but it's pronounced holla.
Supper - this is the evening meal, period. I know that some people still use the word, but most folks I know refer to the evening meal as dinner. However, when I was growing up you had breakfast, dinner and supper. The only time you had lunch was at school. If you ate a meal during the day at home it was called dinner (remember Sunday dinner at grandma's house?). Supper is what you have in the evening, usually between 5 and 6 p.m. Any later meal than that, in some social circles that I wasn't a part of, is called supper. So I guess it's not a lost word, it's just a misused one, depending on your age.
There are countless other words that could be included in this lost language dictionary of mine. I'm sure you've probably thought of a few that I have left out. Feel free to create your own dictionary and share with me if you'd like. I love learning a lost language.
I hope that you will keep in mind to use some of those words and phrases that your grandmother used when you were little as you have conversations with teens and young ones in your life. There are groups that have formed special classes to teach a lost language to folks. I can recall in recent years when the Poarch Band of Creek Indians started a class for members of their tribe to teach them the almost-lost language spoken by their ancestors.
I'd like to think that when my 7-year-old son has grandchildren that they will know that having a good pender boil is a rite of life and they'll know what it means.
So get on your step-ins and your britches and throw some light bread on the supper table. I'll hope you with the boiled penders when I'm through in the privy. Holler when you're done. Oh p-shaw, you do know what I mean.
Lisa Tindell is a news writer for The Brewton Standard. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.