This week, I had the joy of attending a family reunion deep in the wildwoods of Tippah County, Mississippi which has long reminded me of Snuffy Smith Country with all the hills and hollows. Not only did I get a taste of the best Southern cooking this side of the Mason Dixon, I picked up a few colloquialisms which I plan to incorporate into my vocabulary. It would be a shame to lose these priceless relics of our distant past.
My most favorite is the term “ring-tailed tooter” which rolled off the lips of my friend Norma while describing a
spunky young man. She couldn’t believe I’d never heard the saying. We immediately looked it up and learned that it dates to the 1880s when it appeared in a dime novel and was used to describe spunky or mischievous children. We decided then and there that from this day forward our little band of high school friends would forever be called the “the ring-tailed tooters”. (Believe it or not, we still have spunk and the word “mischievous” doesn’t begin to describe our antics even at our advanced aged.)
The class behind us call themselves the Salty Dawgs, so by George we’re going to be the Ring-tailed Tooters.
But back to the reunion. I overheard a double sixth cousin say “We are really getting down to the lick-log on this, so you better hurry.” I pulled on his sleeve and told him I was about to have a “conniption fit” (which is two hairs shy of a hissy fit) to find out what that meant. He mumbled something about logs being floated down the river, but I didn’t really get it. The best I can determine, the lick-logging is happens just before the rubber meets the road.
I sat and listened to the sayings being floated around the room as we feasted on pimiento sandwiches, a mess of greens brimming in pot liquor and 11 platters of fried chicken. I realized the letter “G” was not a part of my family’s vocabulary because we did some singin’, laughin’ and cryin’. Oftentimes the “S” got lost as well – as in “Idn’t that cobber delicious and dudn’t your Momma make the best banana puddin’.
While surveying the variety of chicken parts and pieces, I wondered whatever happened to the “pulley bone”. My cousin had no idea what I was talking about. “You remember the pulley bone where you and your sister could pull in opposite directions to break off the smallest piece and your wish would come true?” (Or was it the long side?)
“Oh….The Wishbone!” she corrected. (Tomato, Tomahto, whatever.)
“Y’all hush your mouths now,” whispered my seventh cousin. “They are startin’ the blessin’.” See? There go the “Gs” again. And hush is so much nicer than “Shut up” which I would never have uttered six decades ago or my Daddy would have washed my mouth out with soap. Ditto for Dadgum or anything else too salty for his taste.
I know the South gets maligned for all sorts of reasons, some real, some imagined. But in that room filled with an eclectic collection of related folks – some said they were “broke up” over the loss of our favorite cousin and others stove up by a plethora of maladies.
I was just hankerin’ for some more of my Cud’n Becky’s caramel cobbler, and all seemed right with the world.