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Jacob Hatcher

Talkin’ Southern 

By Jacob Hatcher  

Community Columnist 

Many years ago I asked a co-worker what until that moment I had considered a standard, universal question. In my politest tone I asked, “Whatcha know good?”  She stared blankly for a second, then turned her head to the side like a puppy hearing a new, strange sound, and said, “I…I don’t know how to answer that question.”  

At first I was confused, and then I was mostly sad. This poor soul has made it to adulthood without ever having heard such a wonderful phrase. Sadder still, I’ve gone on to learn there are more like her in this world.  

I once had a pastor that was nervous about food safety when he heard of the church’s plans for “dinner on the grounds.” The pool fellow was from Cincinnati, so we couldn’t hold it against him.  

Another time, I was standing under an awning blocking the sun out of my eyes, waiting for the rain to let up. When I mentioned something about the Devil beating his wife, my companion would have said I was drunker than Cooter Brown saying such a thing, had he been from the South.  

That’s just how we are down here. We like to ruminate on our words. Maybe it would be easier to just say things plainly, but it wouldn’t be nearly as fun. And besides, we’re a people that like to pass things down. These new non-stick pans might be easier to clean than cast iron, but it’s not the way Granny did it. Just the same, it’d be easier to say, “I think that’s crooked,” but words like catawampus are more entertaining.  

More than anything, though, I’ve come to realize that these phrases are really tests. It’s the quickest way to determine where someone is from. If I ask someone, “whatcha know good?” And they respond, “oh, not too much. How ‘bout you?”, then I know they’re my kind of people.  

And if they look confused I know I’ve got to be patient with them. Bless their heart, they’re just learning a new language.