Tahlequah Daily Press


May 20, 2013

I done went and wrote a column about ‘Okiespeak’

TAHLEQUAH — I got into an argument with someone the other day about how to spell “y’all.” My opponent in the discussion insisted the apostrophe goes between the “a” and the first “l.” My position – the correct one, by the way – is that the apostrophe belongs safely ensconced right after the “y.”

Any fourth-grader in Oklahoma – or a few other Southern-ish states where a twang or a drawl are part of the lexicon – should know “y’all” is a contraction for “you all.” And as with any other contraction, the apostrophe is supposed to sort of stand in for the letter (or two, in this case) that have been removed.

If “it’s raining,” the little jot fills in for the “i” in “is.” If you “can’t stand contractions,” the truth is, you cannot stand them, and the squiggle has to do double duty for “n-o.”

At least my detractor did not try to claim “y’all” wasn’t a real word. Because in Oklahoma, it most certainly does belong in the everyday vernacular, even if it gives English professors at NSU conniption fits. They’ll have to accept the fact that while “ebonics” may fall by the wayside, “Okiespeak” is plumb here to stay.

“Conniption” – now there’s a word that’s just about as Okie as mustard greens or cabbage fried in bacon. Of course, in Oklahoma, we don’t so much “fry” things as we fry them “up,” and English professors aren’t merely “at NSU.” They’re “up at NSU,” or in a worst-case scenario, they’re “up to NSU,” but either way, they’ve about had it up to here – wherever THAT is – with our crucifixion of the cherished language. Especially when we describe them as being “up yonder at the college,” which we often do, even though local folks know full well it’s a university.

In Oklahoma, by the way, we like to be called “folks” rather than the bland, nondescriptive “people.” All humans are people, but only good, decent, down-home folks can be “folks.” We may call our parents “the folks,” but the article – the word “the” – is absolutely necessary. The folks aren’t just any old folks, but they – and other types of folks – can eventually move into an “old folks home.” That’s what we Okies call them, anyway; high-falutin’ types call them “retirement centers” or “senior living facilities.” (By the way, have you ever seen it written “high-faluting”? The “g” seems oddly out of place in this and any other word that ends in “-ing.”)

But it’s not just the words we Okies use, and the way we use them, that makes us the brunt of so many jokes. It’s the way we pronounce them – a way that seems easily recognizable by people from other parts of the country.

We Okies sure enough like to eat eggs, but in our case, we “shore nuff” like chicken embryos, which we pronounce “aigs.” Those “aigs” (or more properly, “them aigs”) have to come with a side of meat. Usually it’s bacon, but sometimes it’s sausage, and occasionally it’s ham – just as long as it comes from some part of a “hawg.” A high school classmate of mine, Earnest Nero, grossed out our entire typing class during a timed test by suddenly asking the teacher – the hapless Mr. Johnson – whether he had ever eaten hog brain and eggs. Since Earnie was (and is) an Okie, the question sounded like this: “You ever ate hawg brain and aigs?” Mr. Johnson hadn’t dined on this particular delicacy, nor did he want to.

We eat an awful lot of “aigs” in Oklahoma (and by “awful” we don’t intend to judge the quality of the eggs), and most of us like ‘em over-easy. (The aforementioned “’em,” of course, is meant to signify the third-person predicative pronoun “them,” but you’ll never hear an Okie sound out the “th.”) Sometimes we eat deviled eggs, which can present especially malodorous problems later, as a local store employee demonstrated several years ago when she entered a bathroom with all the stalls occupied: “Shoooo-eee! Smell lack someone been eatin’ aigs!” “Lack” is how Okies pronounce “like.” I’m not sure how to spell “shooo-eee,” but it’s a definitive Okie exclamation that indicates the presence of a bad smell.

If we eat “aigs,” it stands to reason we walk around on “laigs,” unless for some reason, the person in question can’t walk. It might be, as an Okie would explain it, that “I’m down on my back,” or maybe “I got myself a charley horse” – because in Oklahoma, we don’t get anything as mundane as a leg cramp. We do “get” things ourselves a lot – “I got myself a new girlfriend,” or “I got myself a real jerk for a boss,” and we issue commands along those same lines: “You git yourself over here!” (We say “got,” but not “get” – in Okiespeak, the proper word is “git.”)

Once someone has been to the store and back, we say he “had went” there at some point in the past. But we don’t always need those verbs like “had” or “have” to hold us back; it’s adequate to confess, “I was up to the courthouse, and I seen your mother bailin’ your brother outta jail agin.” We Okies have “seen” a lot. And just because we “like to” do something doesn’t mean we accord it with any particular favor: “When I seen that dead cow with them blowflies on it, I like to threw up.” The speaker doesn’t mean he enjoys vomiting; he’s merely saying he almost commenced vomiting. We Okies are always “commencing” one activity or another.

Lifelong Okies have trouble distinguishing a soft “e” from a soft “i,” which means we can’t tell a “pen” from a “pin.” In fact, sometimes we add a soft “u” for good measure: “Would you hand me that ink pih-un?” This turns a rather simple one-syllable word into a two-parter. A similar tactic is often employed by died-in-the-wool Okies who say my name: It comes out as “Kee-ohm,” like some weird new meditative sound.

We Okies get “aggravated” more than we get angry, and if we’re in a bad mood, we’re “cranky.” When we get “tickled,” it doesn’t necessary mean a goochy-goochy-GOO under the armpit. We sometimes like to “sit a spell,” and many of us suffer from nebulous “spells” – neither of which have anything to do with grammar or witchcraft. When we do “have a spell,” a doctor might write us a “perscription” because we weren’t just “kind of sick,” but because we were “kinely sicky.”

And I don’t care what anyone else says. That sugary, flavored water we drink is “pop.” If we do bother to precede that word with “soda,” we pronounce it “sody,” and then follow it up with the noun.

That ain’t all we do, neither. But I’ve done run out of space, so ya’ll’ll have to wait a piece.

Kim Poindexter is managing editor of the Tahlequah Daily Press.

Text Only
  • A twist on words can get you into trouble

    The misuse or mispronunciation of words can be forgiven in children, but in adults, it’s water-cooler cannon fodder.

    July 28, 2014

  • Keeping the interest of boys is just a matter of ‘gross’

    A couple of my friends complained to me recently that they didn’t know how to “connect” with their teenage sons, and that they are growing apart from the sweet little boys to whom they once read bedtime stories.

    July 14, 2014

  • ‘Different’ situations aren’t so very different, after all

    “Well, that’s different!” It’s the favorite phrase of the hypocrite, when confronted with his glaring flaw.

    July 7, 2014

  • Threats on social media or elsewhere won’t change any minds

    I try not to take political positions on my private Facebook timeline. I used to sometimes, in what I considered a polite way, but that offended friends left and right – literally. And sometimes I watched in horror as a thread degenerated into name-calling between people I respect, but who happen to be polar opposites on the political spectrum.

    June 30, 2014

  • Striking the hyphen, and other journalistic maneuvering

    A couple of years ago, my office phone rang. With no greeting or fanfare, the caller indignantly said, “Did you know they’ve taken the hyphen out of ‘fundraiser’?”

    June 23, 2014

  • taylor.armerding.jpg IRS spins email yarn as Obama slips past another scandal

    Forget everything you've heard about email. All digital trace of a former IRS official's email over the 25 months the agency harassed conservative groups has mysteriously, improbably vanished. Gone, too, is the White House's accountability as President Obama slips from another scandal.

    June 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Front-load washers are harbingers of foul-smelling fabric

    May 27, 2014

  • Beetles in the office aren’t up on blocks

    We have more dead beetles here at the Daily Press office than you can shake a can of Raid at.

    May 12, 2014

  • NOLA always worth your time, especially for Jazz Fest

    When it comes to New Orleans, you can have a “glass half-full” or a “glass half-empty” attitude.
    Either you see anniversary celebrants enjoying a romantic dinner at the Court of Two Sisters, or the aging transvestite hawking her wares on Bourbon Street. You hear the joyous sounds of Zydeco music from the band on the corner, or the lewd cursing of the drunken frat boy at Pat O’Brien’s. You smell the enticing aroma of Cajun cuisine in the French Quarter, or the fresh puddle of vomit on the sidewalk.
    I’m a cynic, but I take the “glass half-full” approach to New Orleans. My family loves the city’s character, even with all the blemishes that repel respectable folks, and we especially love the Jazz and Heritage Festival. That’s where we were last weekend. The main action is out at the fairgrounds, with its sweltering temperatures, stick-tight-laden grass, and sea of sweaty bodies packed in around a dozen stages and 60 or so booths selling local food and crafts.

    May 5, 2014

  • Selling of lies in the dreaded car game

    Recently, my husband and I did something that is discussed in the same tone of disdain reserved for Communists, salesmen, politicians, lawyers, and sometimes, journalists. We bought ourselves a “furrin” car.
    We decided on a foreign contraption because my husband now commutes to Tulsa every day, and a quick calculation revealed the horror our three-quarter-ton diesel Chevy would visit upon our bank account. That vehicle gets a comparatively impressive 18 mpg, but doing the math on the current price of diesel and a 150-mile daily round trip is enough to send anyone to the nearest toilet to hurl up the previous meal.

    April 21, 2014


Do you believe school administrators and college presidents in Oklahoma are paid too much?

Strongly agree.
Somewhat agree.
Somewhat disagree.
Strongly disagree.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando