August 14, 2008
Bourjaily: Long-Lost Language
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
One of the small things I like about hunting is that it takes you into the countryside where people say things you thought no one actually says anymore.
Bits of old-fashioned speech hang on outside of town. Hearing them opens a little window into the past. For instance, I didn’t think anyone really said “cipherin’” – as in “calculating” – in the 21 st century except for Jethro on “Beverly Hillbillies” reruns. Then I went to the Texas Hill Country on a pig hunt. It was very exciting, with the pig getting away from the dogs and chasing us until the dogs caught it again, and the pig practically deflating upon being stabbed with a very long, sharp knife. After the sticking, one of the two houndsmen wiped the blood off the blade and showed it to me. He had made it himself. “I call this here the T2,” he said. “I been cipherin’ for 15 years on the perfect pig knife, and this is it.”
In Greene County, Illinois, where I turkey hunted 10 years ago, no one said “pop” or “soda;” it was “sody pop.”
Here in eastern Iowa, I heard my favorite. A farmer said to me: “That Amishman is so tight, he wouldn’t give a nickel to see an elephant jump over the courthouse.”
I’m glad to write these words and phrases down to help them linger on a little longer. Anybody else have one to share?