Texas talk

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9 04, 2018

Texas, My Texas

By |2018-04-07T13:10:47-05:00April 9th, 2018|Make Me Think Monday, Writer's Life|4 Comments

I recently changed my FB banner. I know, I know. FB is a touchy subject these days, but in order to connect with readers I keep an active FB presence. But I digress…

I chose a Texas bluebonnet picture. It’s the one you see on the left. When I think of Texas, I think of bluebonnets. I missed them when I lived away.

Famous Texas Bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis) Wildflowers.

Texas is bluebonnets. People also associate the state with Lone Star beer, cowboys and rodeos, astronauts and space centers, cattle and the Texas Medical Center.

Texas is a very diverse place. Same thing’s true of a Texan and I’m not talking about the football team players.

We all have a picture in our heads when we think of a native Texan. Usually it’s someone with a cowboy hat and boots, but there’s more to a Texan and even Texans who never wear cowboy boots.

Hurricane Harvey gave images of real Texans and not many of them wore Stetsons. The folks in those pictures looked like anyone else helping their families and neighbors when hard times strike.

Texas has its own language, Texas-speak. A whole slew of vocabulary that can have folks scratching their heads. I just used a Texas-ism—slew, meaning a whole bunch.

We’re always y’all-ing and gonna and fixin’ when we talk. Non-Texans do sometimes need an interpreter.

When I’m lazy in my writing, Texas talk naturally flow into my first drafts even if my characters are not Texans. My critique partners and editors often catch phrases like:

come hell or high water – proceeding, regardless of the problems, obstacles, etc.

conniptions – get upset and raise a ruckus

hissy fit – kin to a conniption; a state of extreme agitation and not a pretty thing to see

hot as tin toilet seat – in Texas we know that’s HOT

screaming bloody murder or banshee scream – not a pleasant sound at all

bone tired – yep, been there

slow as molasses – visualize molasses syrup oozing out of the jar

keep your pants on – meaning not what you think, but to be patient!

If you’ve ever been to Texas, you know it’s a special place. You love it or hate it. Seems there’s no in between.

But there’s something in a natural born Texan’s blood that tends to bring them back to Texas no matter how far or how long they wander. My daddy always said I’d come home and I did.

17 09, 2012

Texas talk, colloquialisms, and weasel words – in my writing?

By |2012-09-17T10:53:11-05:00September 17th, 2012|Writing Craft|12 Comments

I wish I could say NO WAY!

Can’t.

When I shared a recent chapter with my critique partners, one of them questioned this sentence, “He found himself in deep water.”

  Not understanding that my POV character’s internal thought meant he found himself in trouble, she thought I had put him in a swimming pool and forgot to put that detail on the page.

Frequently what’s playing in my head fails to come across on the page in early drafts. Thank heaven for CPs who call me when that happens.

Not this time, though. This time I was using Texas talk.

She’d never heard the expression “in deep water” used that way. Her stumbling over the phrase led to a discussion of colloquial language and how words, phrases, and even clichés vary from one geographical area to another.

In Texas, we have a whole slew of vocabulary that has folks scratching their heads. I just used one—slew, meaning a whole bunch. We’re always y’all-ing and gonna and fixin’ when we talk. Non-Texans do sometimes need an interpreter.

 Some more phrases:

come hell or high waterproceeding, regardless of the problems, obstacles, etc.

conniptionsget upset and raise a ruckus

hissy fit – kin to a conniption a state of extreme agitation and not a pretty thing to see

hot as tin toilet seat – in Texas we know that’s HOT

screaming bloody murder or banshee scream – not a pleasant sound at all

bone tired – yep, been there

slow as molasses – visualize black syrup oozing out of the jar

keep your pants on – meaning not what you think, but to be patient!

When I’m being lazy with my writing or rushing, Texas terms and phrases naturally flow into my first drafts. 

I also have favorite words that pop up. Words like: had, that, could, was, felt, knew, thought, saw, walked, come. Margie Lawson  calls these “weasel words.”

 I learned in Margie’s deep editing class, The EDITS System, to keep a WEASEL WORD CHART listing colloquial phrases, overused word, throw-away words, clichés, and opinion words.

 Unfortunately, my chart populates too easily. I’m my own worst copy editor. that’s why I always pay a professional before my books are published. The words I overuse stand out like sore thumbs to others.  (Sorry, Margie had to use a cliché to prove my point.)

 During the revision stages, the chart helps eliminate such weasel words and phrases using my word processor’s search and replace function.  

BUT characterization can need slang and colloquial regional dialogue. Texan talk has a function if the protagonist is a Texan or the setting is Texas.

Are you working on a Texas setting or character? Here’s a great resource: http://www.rice.edu/armadillo/Texas/talk.html

Other times, overuse in novel narrative becomes a stumbling block, pulling readers from the story.

 When that happens, the reader does what no writer wants a reader to do—QUITS reading!

 If colloquialisms are your writer’s voice, I caution you to be sure your reader can understand what you’re saying. Always remember what I learned in a Susan Wiggs workshop.

In the battle of words, the story reigns.

 Our word choices should always move the story forward.

In case you’re wondering what I did about my CP’s question, I decided the reader could discern the meaning from the rest of the scene and left the phrase “deep water” in the manuscript.

 How about you…

Do colloquialisms, local slang and weasel words slip into your novels?

Are you guilty of using expressions you grew up with that might confuse a reader? Care to share some and explain their local meaning?