Sprechen Sie Arkansan?

“Would you like that in a sack?” the friendly lady at the liquor store asked.

“A what?” I had visions of a burlap bag in my head.

“A sack” she smiled patiently as a teacher might at a particularly dense student.

I stared blankly.  Not changing the smile on her face she continued to look at me as she pulled out a plastic bag and shook it a few times making that familiar loud crinkily noise.

“Ummm…no thanks” I said a grabbed my six pack and sheepishly exited the store.

While the emigration of people from around the globe has homogenized the Bville local dialect a bit, southern idioms and accents are strong temptresses.  The walls of the so called “Bville bubble” are porous, and never more so to the virulent contagion of the Arkansan drawl and dialect.

While hard core Yankees from Boston, Philly, and New York will successfully slow the advance of the southern twang, most others, including Brits will eventually submit to the will of the Arkansan tongue.

You will get use to this.  You will adopt it.  You will like it.

While you will probably never pronounce cement as “SEA-ment”, at around three months you will notice that your friends from back home and at work will be making fun of you for slipping “y’all” into your day-to-day conversation.  You won’t notice it, it will just happen.  It is just so easy to slip into it. After a short time you will not know how you ever did without the helpful and friendly phrase.

While I won’t spoil all of your surprises, here are a few of the local expressions and references that may save you some heartache, confusion, and embarrassment in the future.

  • Boil = usually a crawfish boil consisting of corn, potatoes, sausage, crawfish, and boiled in a big pot and then dumped out on a table and eaten with your hands
  • Buggy = shopping cart
  • Crawdad = crayfish, crawfish
  • Cattywampus/Cattycorner – diagonal from, especially used in geo-location
  • Daggum = Polite version of god damn
  • Fixin’ = meaning you are getting ready to do something
  • Float = tubing, canoeing, or kayaking on one of the many beautiful rivers in the area.
  • Gettin’ place = reference to obscure the origination of goods purchased
  • Home Office = in NWA it always mean Walmart Headquarters
  • Lightening bug = firefly
  • Pocketbook = purse
  • Piddle = to goof off. waste time.
  • Razorbacks = usually the University of Arkansas football team
  • Reckon = that you are clear on a topic or have specific direction
  • Slaw = Coleslaw
  • Sweet or Unsweet = can be asked after you order iced tea.  Be warned, the default is usually sweet if you don’t specify and it is sweet.
  • The Trail = the greenway bike trail that runs from Bella Vista down to Fayetteville
  • The Square = usually in reference to Bentonville square, but can refer to Fayetteville square
  • Square to Square = either the unofficial running race or bicycle race from Bville square to Fayetteville
  • Sack = plastic bag
  • Tore Up = angry, upset, or disappointed

One in particular you should be aware of, that took me a while to catch on was the expression “Oh, bless your heart.”  Now, you might be tempted to think this is a term of endearment or empathy.  Let me disabuse you of that notion; it is not.  Roughly translated “oh bless your heart” means “you are a dumb ass.” The person saying it is acknowledging that fact.

It goes like this.

“Ma’aam, I was wondering if you could tell where I could pick up a six pack of beer for the game tonight”

“Oh bless your heart…you know today is Sunday right?”

I learned that one the hard way. So, I hope some of these terms may help you settle in if you are new to NWA.  If you are a veteran of the area, I would love to hear your additions or edits to my list above.  Talk to y’all soon.

3 thoughts on “Sprechen Sie Arkansan?

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