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Southern Weights and Measurements
by Carl Wayne Hardeman

Some of you may not be able to read this. That's okay. Just put it down and and go on back up I-55 until you recognize words you understand -- and where the weather is colder than a well digger's you-know-what.

Just as English is full of archaic and strange terms for weights and measurements like furlong, gill, liter and gram, our Southrenese is replete with highly descriptive terms with rich connotative meanings separate and apart from highbrow terms like plethora and dearth. In other words, we have our own language which possibly only we understand.

Have you ever given a Yankee directions and told him: "Hit's over yonder a fer piece"? Did he look at you funny and speed off back toward the north while you were grinning like a mule eating briers?

A Yankee has no clue where yonder is, but I confess, I have no idea who that yahoo is he was talking about. We know yonder is not here. It's a ways off, perhaps as much as a fer piece, but not as much as a country mile, which is not as fer as a mighty fer piece.

We can get a ways off faster than a rotten plum through a goose, but it will take us a coon's age to get a fer piece, and we haven't been a mighty fer piece since heck was a pup, and he's dead of old age, and deader than a door nail at that.

If you were to ask Uncle Aubrey of Laws Hill, Mississippi, how he's doing, he might say he was fairin passably, and Auntie might say she's tolerable, though she's been nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. They are doing fair to middling as long as they are able to sit up and take a fair amount of nourishment and a swaller or two of cold buttermilk. They might even say that was right nice of you to ask or mighty nice of you to ask.

Aubrey said Junior, his little brother, fell off the porch, knocked a big pone on his head, and was mad as an old wet hen. Uncle Aubrey told him not to get his dauber stuck in the mud, and put a dab of chaw on the pone to draw out the "pizen."

Momma was a true Southern lady and thought it was impolite to ask anyone their age. If she were asked, she was quick to say: "I'm the same age as my gums and a little bit older than my teeth."

Several more quantitative terms that come to mind are: scarce as hen's teeth, a covey of quail, a bevy of belles, a lick of sense, a sack full of taters, a mess of greens, a month of Sundays, a heap of mashed taters, oodles of love, a dash, a smidgen, and a pinch.

We have a new Southren quantitative measurement. Belts come in X, XL, XXL, and XXXL, and now SCL. SCL means you are on the Stockyard Call List in case they get in a large bull and you need a new belt.

Anyway you look at it, we know what we mean and we get'er done. If I've left any out, let me know. I've got to go clean up my mess where I tump'ed over my glass of sweet tea.


Carl Wayne tells us about himself:
"I write gardening articles for the Collierville, Tennessee, Independent, the Southaven, Mississippi, Press, and Desoto Magazine, all from a Southern perspective. I point out the correct pronunciation of ants (aints) and peonies (peOnies) and advise always to plant hydrangeas on the north side of the house. I've been in software development forty years, the last twenty with a large overnight express delivery company. I have taught computer science as adjunct faculty at local universities over twenty-five years. We have a small farm in Pontotoc County, Mississippi, where we raise a large garden with my in-laws. My in-laws were there when the REA strung the first electric wires in that area. They were killing hogs. That night for supper they had liver and lights."

Write Carl Wayne at this e-mail address: Rows of Buttercups

Read more of Carl Wayne's stories at USADS:
Southern Snakes
Laws Hill Fish House
Eco-friendly Gardening: Yes, It's Weeds
Me and Mimi in the Garden

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