Tag Archives: Southern-speak

The Whalen-Specific Wise County Bookslinger Lexicon Quick Reference Guide

As many people know, we’ve got our bookshopsitter in place for Sept. 20-Nov. 20. Andrew Whalen, coming down from NYC, seems sensible and unflappable, so he should do fine–despite the best efforts of those offering to take him Squatch hunting, or help him scoop out the outhouse. (If you haven’t seen the blog post from two days ago, showing the Facebook comments welcoming him to town, well, go have a look.)

Still, there are things a city lad needs to know when arriving in Far Southwest Virginia, so with the help of a few friends, Jack and I have created the “Whalen-Specific Wise County Bookslinger Lexicon Quick Reference Guide,” to help him with terms that might be useful or used in the bookstore. Here are a few entries:

Rasslin: this is not a craft material. It’s that sport on television, the one many think is fixed. And it will come up in the bookstore, believe me. On Tuesday past, Garth, one of the town councilors, sat at our table outlining a plan for female mud rasslin to fundraise badly-needed equipment at the firehouse. Unfortunately, prudes stand in the way of progress…

Memaw/Mamaw: family-specific terms for the paternal and maternal grandmother. Problem is, which is which switches with each family. Don’t be afraid to ask. Just don’t smile when either term is used, or you will lose major points.

Woodbooger: {sigh} A documentary done for Discovery Channel attempted to discover if Sasquatch really lurked in our mountain woodlands. Apparently a few amateur photographers had once filmed a shadowy creature covered in hair skulking near a lake. (My friend Kathy holds an opinion shared by many: it was just a local guy fishing with his shirt off.)

While filming, a couple of the crew members allegedly referred to Wise Countians as less educated than some, less willing than others to be educated. This did not go over well. They also persisted in using outdated colloquialisms, including “booger,” a term for a ghost. So according to the film crew that wasn’t from here, Woodbooger is how Southwest Virginians refer to the Sasquatch that fills our every waking thought.

During the documentary, local men “helping” the crew held up some shelf fungus and explained with great solemnity that this was “Squatch snot,” aka a “woodbooger” and from there it just got silly. What is it with men and body effluvium, anyway? Now local stores sell shellacked pieces of wood knots called “woodboogers.” You can pick one up almost anywhere. (Just wash your hands afterward.)

Abuvyeraysen: As in “don’t get above your raising.” This is a gentle warning shot across the bow, delivered only to someone the local person thinks redeemable from snobbery, to knock off whatever one is doing or saying. The next verbal sally will be something along the lines of “shootfire, if’n we bought ‘im for what he was worth, an’ sold ‘im for what he thinks he’d fetch, we’d be bazillionairres!” By then it is too late; you will not be asked to join the hunting party, civic club, or fundraising committee. In female parlance, “shootfire” is often replaced with “nice” as in, “Well, ain’t you the just nicest li’l thing.” Translation: your life in this town is over.

Bless your heart: Eff you. (Please note; this one can be tricky. If the person is speaking to you about someone else and blesses his/her heart, it becomes a “get out of jail” card for trashing the gossipee. It only means eff you when spoken directly to you.)

We hope this simple guide will help not only Andrew, but others interested in the small town simplicity of our bookstore, to understand and enjoy the idyllic rural setting of our beloved Coalfields. Remember, Andrew will be blogging every Wednesday about his experiences. He arrives next Wednesday 19th, so we’ll get him settled in and start his guest blog the following week. Y’all come!


Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA