How to talk like you are from 19th century South Carolina?…Let Mr. Edward Hooker be your guide.

When Edward Hooker wrote his diary of his time in South Carolina (1805- 1808)1 , he included a commentary on the “great many peculiarities of phrase… some of them vulgarisms and some …proper enough, and convey an idea with force” which he encountered during his stay. So, to assist you in understanding how your early 19th century Carolina ancestors probably expressed themselves, here is Mr. Hooker’s guide, edited for presentation:

All but is a favorite expression for all most Eg. We all but turned over.

Cabin is used for a log house or any poor mansion.”

Carry a horse to water is vulgarly used for lead him to water.”

Clever for likely, learned, able, excellent.”

Cotch for caught is very common.”

Crap for crop. Even sensible men speak of their crap of cotton…”

“...clear out is common and is often used… thus Mrs. L. the other day finding some… of the negro children who had come into the piazza to play with the others, making an intolerable disturbance.. ordered all hands to clear out.”

“…the word distance in form of an active verb. Example I shall wait for you only half an hour. Now return speedily; or by ___ You’ll be distanced.

“By filly is meant a mare- especially a young one.”

Fotch for fetch is in some use.”

Good man is often used for man of property…”

Hauling wood and hauling fodder .. is in general use for getting or waggoning wood…”

“A heap is very awkwardly used in adverbial form for in a great degree… He likes it a heap.

“For a term of calling, I say is usual… I say! Mr. H. are you going to the Post Office?

Lie down is used for going to bed or retiring, and seems to be considered a more refined phrase.”

“…like is peculiar: Eg He acts just like he would if he were crazy.

Mighty is in everybody’s mouth, for very…”

“Instead of saying I rode a little farther, the Carolinian says, I rode a piece farther.”

“When one calls loudly loudly to another, the interjection O is often inserted. Eg. Edmund! Edmund! O, Edmund!

“…powerful for big or great.”

“Waggoners speak of being stall’d when their wheels have got into a mudhole… the term is sometimes applied to other cases, as for example to a school-boy, who is perplexed by an intricate question in arithmetic.”

“The low country abounding with swamps… it has become common to say of one who has got into difficulty… he has got swamped.”

Raly for really.”

“I reckon for I believe.”

So help me is used by those not quite profane enough to annex the name of Deity…”

“The common introductory address to a stranger is stranger. Eg. Stranger, can you tell me which of these roads leads to Abbeville?

Tackey is universally applied to a mean horse.”

Too is used for a superlative- Eg. What a fine girl Miss W. is! She is too handsome.”

“To tote a thing is to carry it on the head: but it is sometimes applied to any lifting.”

Very badly is often used for very much: for which however, there is the authority of Horace: “Cupis misere abire”.”

Yon for yonder.”

And you will want to be careful to avoid falling into these linguistic traps as you speak like your ancestor:

“On the other hand, there are several expressions current among New Englanders, which appear equally odd to Carolinians: Such as stoop for a piazza, a stub for a stump: a kow for a cow: choars for little tasks. Guess is a word, when used for believe, so confessedly Yankee-fied (as the Carolinians pretend) as to be made one principal criterion for determining who is a New Englander.”

So, I say, stranger, O stranger– I reckon if you read yon blog you will soon talk all but like a resident of the SC backcountry… ralymighty powerful, wouldn’t you agree?  I guess…oops… I believe you won’t get swamped if you’re clever and want to learn very badly.  Work mighty hard, and, so help me, you won’t get stalled.


1.  Extracts from Edward Hooker’s diary were edited and published by J. Franklin Jameson.  Reprints are available from various booksellers and on the Internet.