When watching the recent news story about the hostage rescue in Alabama (and may I just say, Thanks be to God) I saw one of the Alabama state reps speaking about being with the hostage’s mother when the news broke.
“She just hugged my neck,” said Harri Anne Smith, describing the mother’s elation.
And normally those words would produce the appropriate mental image for me and then evaporate, but I had the realization that this situation was on the national stage and those to the north of us would be scratching their heads and wondering, What in the hell are those Alabamians up to now?
Let me explain…when someone “hugs your neck”, they are simply giving you a hug.
I don’t know why the neck region is specified, but there is indeed a lot of neck-hugging going on in these parts. We tend to be affectionate and, well, we “love on each other”, which may sound quite intimate but usually just comes back around to the hug, although one might also “love on” another person in a less physical manner by way of heaping praise or attention.
Now, I never say “fixin’ to”, which simply means “preparing to” (as in “I’m fixin’ to go winch my truck out of the ditch”) but I can occasionally be heard telling my children to “put that up”, which is a different way of saying “put that away.” This may occasionally create some confusion for a child depending on their current stage of language development, when they may only understand “up” as “opposite of down”.
I personally find the old folks around here a delight to listen to, as they remind me very much of my Nanny, an Alabama farm girl. To the old-timers, a child is not a child but a “young ‘un”, and those two words (well, one word plus a word fragment) are spoken together as if they were one.
One that I rarely ever hear anymore which was a favorite of my Nanny’s is “I don’t know what went with it” meaning “it’s lost.” For instance, one might say, “Well, I had a deviled egg platter but I don’t know what went with it.”
Another one from way, way back that you have only heard if you’ve lived here a while is “cold drink”, actually pronounced “cold drank” which is a generic label for various types of soft drinks. I remember Nanny, concerned about her expanding waistline, declaring, “I ain’t a-drankin them old cold dranks n’more!” God, I miss her.
My father-in-law, a soft-spoken, kind man from Arkansas, will still occasionally utter a “Well, I declare” without a trace of irony. That’s his way of saying “holy wow”, except that he’s not the holy wow type.
Down here, the tea is always iced and sweet unless you request otherwise (and just for the record, you can’t sweeten cold tea), we use that well-known contraction of “you” and “all”, and we “sir” and “ma’am” each other to death, even our contemporaries at times.
And finally, a back-handed insult (or even a front-handed one, at times) can usually be forgiven if it is followed up with a “bless her (or his) heart.” Example: She’s an idiot, bless her heart.