A few years ago, I made a talk to a group in Fort Worth. When I finished, an obviously educated lady of some means chastised me for repeating a series of good ol’ boy expressions used in East Texas.
“Don’t you think,” she began, “that using those expressions destroys the integrity of the English language?”
She may have a point, but the last time I looked, there wasn’t an organized movement by East Texans to bring political correctness to the way they talk. Instead, the good ol’ boy expressions and idioms for which we are famous seem to be proliferating and keeping pace with today’s times.
The other day, for example, I heard a business owner describe a stern and uncompromising manager this way: “He’ll stare down a computer.” In my days, it went this way: “He’ll stare down a mule.”
While most of our sayings are being updated every day, most of them are the products of rural folks who were forced to rely on their country experiences to emphasize a point in conversations.
Consider these examples:
• “She has as much use for that as a hog needs pockets.”
• ”I had a piece of pie as big as the baby’s high chair.”
• “He’s smiling like a mule eating briars.”
A lot of word-stingy editors I’ve known will never accept this theory, but there are a lot of expressions which make more sense than single words. Such as:
• Angry: “He’s hotter than a pot of collards.
• Big: “She’s a well-watered woman.”
• Foolish: “He buys crutches for lame ducks.”
• Amazement: “Great gobs of galloping goose grease.”
Ugly is described by East Texans in more ways that I can count. Here are some samples:
• She’s so ugly she could snag lightning.
• He has a head like a stomped ‘possum.
• He looks like the dogs have kept him under the house.
• Never marry an ugly girl; she’s hard to get shed of.
(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 50 books about East Texas history and folklore. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)