How to Tawk Texan

By Bruce Felps

[Editor’s note: It is just too cold to think, my fingers are about halfway frozen, and besides, this little personal favorite should probably see the light of cyber-day again now that the dearly departed Black White Read servers have gone dark and it exists only on my hard drive and in my hardened heart. Yeah, it’s a rerun.]

I take a great sense of pride from my status as a native Texan. I also take a fair amount of ridicule from the unenlightened.

Some of the ridicule comes from outdated stereotypes from East Coasters who think we all wear huge cowboy hats, strap six-shooters to our thighs, drive big fancy cars most of us can’t afford, and augment ourselves with physique enhancing surgeries and unnatural exercise routines. Oh.

Some of it, though, comes from the way we speak. That one, I think, is fair because people who are born and raised here don’t speak English, we speak Texan as our native language.

Cleanliness is next to communicativeness

My former wife — who grew up to Irish-born parents in far northern Virginia just outside Washington, D.C., in Alexandria, Va., which by some fluke of geography is south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and had the audacity to call herself a Southerner — ran through her mental Texan-to-English Dictionary to understand my words after I would come in from, say, mowing and edging the yard.

“Ah’ma shar.”

Finally, after a couple of minutes of deciphering the code, she realized I had just said, “I will now cleanse my body in the upright washing facility located in the restroom.”

Anyway, it occurs to me, after talking with so many folks in the n’hood who moved here from out of state, and a fair number of real estate agents who sell them the houses, there exists a need around here for a little translation. I’m here to help. No charge.

The birth of a language

The Texan language is an odd concoction comprising unequal parts English, Spanish, Hick, and Historically Underfunded and Shoddily Run Educational System.

Texans do have a colorful way of expressing themselves. I think it harkens back to Col. William B. Travis, who was the commander at the Alamo, the cradle of Texas independence.

Travis, in a response to Gen. Santa Anna’s demand for surrender, fired a cannonball at the Mexican forces marshaled outside the Alamo. What Travis really said was, “Take a hike, dictator-boy, and take that donkey you rode in on with ya.”

From there, we got off to a great start.

And them’s good eatin’

A friend and former co-worker grew up in a semi-rural county in West Texas where his father was sheriff. Sorry, that was redundant. All counties in West Texas are semi-rural.

James, though, had an interesting way to inform those around him that he was famished and needed nourishment that instant. “Mah innards are eatin’ each other!” he’d bellow. We got the picture, and it wasn’t very appetizing.

Usually, the “innards” expression was followed by something like, “Moan, sqweet.” Literally translated, and slowed using time-lapse typing, that means, “Come on, let’s go eat.”

Other variations of the food theme include, “Cummin’gidit,” which translates to, “Honey, kids, dinner is now served in the formal dining room; please wash your hands before being seated,” and, “Passa grabee, willya,” in place of the proper English, “Excuse me, dear, if it’s not too great an imposition, would you mind terribly handing me the flour-and-grease mixture used to pour over and moisten the pot roast?”

Up on the rooftop, hick, hick, hick

My dad once suffered a rather painful, albeit self-inflicted, heat-related malady. He was repairing roof shingles, during August in the Texas heat, mind you, and drinking an alcoholic beverage or four.

He just kinda brushed off the fact he had stopped sweating and continued hammering.

Afterward, he told me, “Boy, I swole up lack a ol’ toad.”

In medical terms, or something approximating medical terms, he said, “I experienced severe tissue swelling, affecting roughly 80 percent of my epidermis and an increase in bodily temperature to about 101.3 degrees, brought on by heatstroke.”

My dad’s really a smart guy. Really. He’s just stubborn.

The future foretold

As colorful, or confusing, as the Texan language is, it also can prove prophetic.

When a native speaker slurs the immortal words, “Ho’d mah bee-ur an’ wah chiss,” his equally inebriated friends will whoop and holler semi-intelligible words, even for Texan, of encouragement.

Bubba Don has, in fact, just implored his friends to have a cell phone at the ready because his mortality soon will be endangered. Loosely translated, his words mean:

“I am about to do something catastrophically stupid, causing some degree of bodily harm, perhaps death, to myself and possibly others within the immediate vicinity. We are certain to need emergency medical personnel and law enforcement officers in the very near future. Darwin Awards, here we come.”

I am so proud.

Bruce Felps owns and operates East Dallas Times. He would call this a “best of” selection but in his case it’s more like a “less bad” selection.


  1. Beverly Regan

    Teksuns hayuv vary colorful spaetch.
    Ah bleeve mah momma callin me Beyuv in my aformativ yurs kwazd meh to drop the nknaame and go bah Beverly eansted.

  2. Carol Conine

    I would call it “best of”

  3. bfelps

    you guys are great.

  4. Once an old Texas cowboy who was a rodeo performer told me “I bin rid on, thowed & stumped.”
    I wanted to say “Cut off the lights & go back down yonder.”
    Of course I also had a long time friend who slaughtered the English language all of the time such as “Everbody should have a gold, ya know, in life.” “Her hair was raving black.”
    “Those mavals are distinct.” (refering to dinosaurs being extinct) and my favorite; “He lacks a daisy, never gets anything done.”

  5. LakewoodLady

    Priceless! Texans are right up there with the Aussies a close second. I never did figure some of their colorful language out.
    Bruce, did you know real Virginians consider NoVA “Occupied Virginia”?

  1. 1 To Dad, with Love « East Dallas Times

    […] ooooh,” he’d say, drawn out for effect and because he speaks Texan. “Your finger- and toenails are gonna turn black and fall off in three days [two, three, four] […]

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