Saturday, August 15, 2009

Editing a Southerner takes twice the effort

I love the South, don't get me wrong. But I feel for my editor when she has to take a sharp knife to my writing. She once pointed out that one of my favorite "repeat" words was "little." I will not embarrass myself by confessing how many times I found the word littering up my last novel -- suffice it to say it was more than a little bit. :-)

"Little" is one of those words that we southerners use to take the sting out of whatever we say. It is as reflexive as a "bless 'er heart" after a veiled insult. Since we pride ourselves on manners, we use the word a lot. "It's just a little trouble," we'll tell someone. "Or I got a little upset." To lengthen it out still longer, we will insert another word: "bit."

"It's not but a little bit of trouble," we'll tell someone who is asking us to move the world at the last second, without the benefit of a place to stand or so much as a crowbar to pry it into its new orbit. Later of course, we'll grumble, "I'm just a little bit upset about it."

I once watched a PBS special called, "Do You Speak American?" Fascinating stuff, for a writer. It left me curious to hear more regional idioms, like how New York's residents stand ON a line, not in it, or how in Philadelphia, if I'm remembering correctly, all red spaghetti sauce is referred to by natives as "gravy."

What idioms does your part of the world use?

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