A wild goose chase — August 31, 2022

A wild goose chase

Here in Eastern Kentucky, just as in other parts of the galaxy, we have our own colloquialisms. We also have particular definitions for words and phrases. For example, instead of “I don’t mind to” we say “I don’t care to” when asked to perform a task. I didn’t realize that one caused mass confusion until I was well into adulthood. Several folks who weren’t from around here told me they couldn’t understand why so many people were refusing their requests for help with a cheerful “I don’t care to.”

Now, at my advanced age, I’ve learned of another definition that appears to be unique to this area.

This started with my bestie sending me a message, telling me she needed to ask me about “goosing” and that she would do so in person. Intrigued, I added it to our list of people, places, and things to discuss during our road trip. When she made a detour to pick me up on our journey to visit our other bestie, I asked, “What’s this about goosing?”

At that point, she asked me to define goosing.

I said it meant tickling.

She cursed.

My bestie, who is not from Eastern Kentucky, and her husband, who is from Eastern Kentucky, came to the area a few weeks ago for a funeral. During the funeral, the preacher shared an anecdote about how the deceased was once goosed at work.

This story confused my bestie. Indeed, on the way home, she asked her husband why the preacher had told a story about a man having his rear end grabbed. In addition, she wondered why the congregation had laughed and laughed at such a story.

This led to a spirited debate between said bestie and her husband over the meaning of goosing. He maintained it means tickling. She maintained it means grabbing someone by his or her behind. To prove her point, she consulted online dictionaries. The dictionaries backed up her claim. Her husband responded by telling her to ask me. After all, he reasoned that tickling must be the Eastern Kentucky definition of goosing.

That’s why my bestie cursed. Her husband was right.

When my bestie and I arrived at our destination, we asked our other bestie, who is also not from Eastern Kentucky, for her definition of goosing. She said it means grabbing someone by the expletive. She also demonstrated with a hand motion, just so there would be no misunderstanding. After our girls’ weekend ended and she returned to work in her mid-Atlantic state, she conducted an informal survey of her coworkers. All of them defined goosing as grabbing someone by the rear end.

I also asked a handful of my Eastern Kentucky coworkers. Every one of them said it means tickling.

How did goosing obtain another definition in this region?

I don’t care to find out.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

To care or not to care — November 18, 2014

To care or not to care

Every region has its own distinctive vernacular and vocabulary, but it takes outsiders to point out these idiosyncrasies in language to native speakers. In my cozy mystery, “Murder on Sugar Creek,” the young reporter, Tyler, plays the role of the person who’s not from around here.

When amateur sleuth and the book’s protagonist, Maggie Morgan, responds to a request for directions by saying, “I don’t care to help you,” Tyler scoffs. In his world, “I don’t care to” literally means the speaker doesn’t care.

In eastern Kentucky, it means, “Why, shore, Bub, I’ll help you out.”

I have no idea when or why “I don’t care to” became a positive response. In fact, I didn’t know the phrase prompted controversy until circa 2008 when I attended a get-together populated primarily by people not from around here. These friendly, considerate folk were in no way ridiculing us. They were, however, baffled by certain expressions they had not heard until they moved here.

Of course, they also exaggerated. One of them noted that we refer to those bodies of water that run by our homes and roads as “cricks.” That’s just ridiculous. They’re creeks. A crick is a pain in your neck.

But it’s true that we live in hollers instead of hollows, that hogs waller in the mud, and that misbehaving children are often accused of behaving like hetherns. I don’t think I’ve ever correctly pronounced the word heathen. Or, for that matter, greasy, spigot, and tomorrow. Those words become greezy, spickit, and tuhmar once you enter our mountains.

We also love to pluralize. My daddy worked in the coal mines. We shop at the Walmarts. We cheered on John Wall(s) the year he played for our beloved Wildcats.

We’re also directionally challenged. Indeed, as my characters can attest, we frequently travel up to Tennessee and down to Ohio. One of my crack proofreaders noticed this in my manuscript and marked it as a mistake. It’s not a mistake, though, it’s just how we talk.

In an effort at full disclosure, however, I must admit that I try to pronounce and use words correctly and to adhere to proper grammar. Yet, despite the best efforts of others, I continue to describe knit caps as toboggans and I refuse to call that annoying, stinging insect a wasp. It’s a wasper. I know the difference, but I don’t care to use the right term. And, in this case, I don’t care to really means that I’m not doing it.