Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

December 7, 2013

The South keeps America interesting

(Continued)

Certain expressions were pure Arkansas. To spill something was to “tump it over.” Something misaligned or out of place was “womperjawed.” Like the best slang, no translation was ever required.

Her mother’s deadliest insult was “country-come-to-town,” to signify, well, a redneck buffoon.

I do think there’s an innate wisdom and modesty in reminding ourselves how close we are to nature, and how like the animals. That simplicity’s the soul of Southern wit.

Alas, defunct metaphors wither into cliches. Saying somebody’s “kicking up their heels” doesn’t convey much to somebody who’s never seen a herd of cows turned into a new pasture. To observe that somebody’s “grinning like a mule eating briars” merely sounds affected if there’s nary a mule for three counties around.

So anyway, here’s another of the Arkansas girl’s down-home expressions you may not have heard. How do you describe an aggressively flirtatious woman? You might say she’s “tittin’ around,” a concept quite unlikely to go out of style.

(Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President” (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at eugenelyons2@yahoo.com.)

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