As part of my writer’s resources, I post lists of descriptions that have jogged my creativity and helped me write about this and that more cleverly. One of the most challenging jobs as a writer–IMHO–is representing how people talk in the cultural nuances of their geographic area. I’m not talking about a native language–a Russian speaking Russian even though you type it in English for your reading audience. I’ve seen this done a variety of ways:
- the native language followed by the English
- a few lines in the native language and the rest in English
- a continual smattering of the native language with the rest in English, using common phrases that many people would understand. For example, if they’re Russian, you might say goodbye with Dos Vdanya.
The reader quickly gets the idea the reader is that nationality.
What I’m referring to in this post is more like a character trait–differentiating one of your actors with the cultural nuances of his language. For example, for a Brit, you’d have him say ‘spot on’ or ‘bloody’. When that appeared in a dialogue, it clarifies for the reader who’s talking without the need for tags. It also helps put the reader in the scene, with the action.
Fellow blogger Andy Oldham over at Christian Grandfather sent me a list he created of Southern words and agreed to share them with you-all. It’s long–over forty pages–so I’ll only put the first page, and then a link to download the entire list. If you’re writing about the American South or have a character newly-moved from that geographic area, these will add spice to any scene:
- WWSD ~ What would Scarlett do?
- A tough row to hoe ~ it will be hard to do but not impossible
- Anal glaucoma ~ I can’t see myself coming to work today
- Aim to ~ I plan to do something
- Ain’t ~ isn’t
- Air-up ~ put air in a tire
- ANYWAYS ~ And, then; and, so
- Arish ~ It’s a bit chilly outside tonight
- Aunt ~ called Ont or Ontee, aunties
- Aunt Flo [came to visit] ~ It’s code for a girls period. Makes a good inside joke.
- Baby (1) ~ New baby is an infant
- Hip baby is old enough to sit on your hip
- Knee baby – one who stands or holds on to mama’s knee while she is talking to someone.
- Baby (2) ~ my girlfriend/boyfriend or wife/husband or lover – Oh Baby!
- Baily-wick ~ the cards are not in your baily-wick, or you lost that game, I guess it wasn’t in your baily-wick.
- Beaux ~ a gentleman caller or friend
- Be-ins ~ since, if, so long as
- Biggity ~ Vain and overbearing
- Bitty bit – or itty bitty bit ~ A tiny amount
- Blabber Chabber: ~ Someone who talks on and on about nothing; jibberish
- Blissful living ~ someone is very happy regardless of circumstance
- Blowhard – braggart, bully
- Blue Belly or Yank or Yankee ~ anyone from north of the Mason- Dixon Line; some say anyone from north of I-10 or I-20, lol
- BOBO ~ A small injury or wound.
- Bogeyman ~ Pronounced Boogyman; the devil, a demon, a ghost.
- oiled Peanuts ~ It’s what southerners do with peanuts
- Boohiney ~ Buttocks/I’ll kick your boohiney; She has a nice boohiney!
- Boots (cowboy) ~ Shoes perfect for every occasion
- Bowed-up ~ impatient, upset and pouting
- Boy Howdy ~ an exclamation
- Bread basket ~ stomach
- Bumfuzzeled ~ Confused or disoriented
Here’s the attachment so you can get the entire immersive list–Southern Writers Catalog. Enjoy!
There are some great websites that discuss using Southern dialect and phrasing in writing (often humor). Here’s one from Alabama Tom, and here’s a thorough discussion on how to talk Southern. These two are great!
More about language: