One Southern Word: Ratback

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A few years ago, there was an upsurge of interest in “how to talk Southern”.

You could buy books on the language, maybe listen to podcasts.

They’d teach you things like the Southern definition of “ah”.

In case you’ve forgotten, “ah” (in Southern-speak) has two meanings. In one sense, it refers to yourself as a first-person singular pronoun. In another, it’s the organ of sight. As in:

“Ah think ah’ve got somethin’ in mah ah.”

So far, so good. Lots of folks were dispensing wisdom such as this. Some of them were pretty good. Others were flashy phonies and wannabes. How to tell the difference?

I worked out a pretty good test. Whenever anyone began posturing and pontificating about my native tongue, I’d ask that person to define the Southern word “ratback” — and to use it correctly in a sentence.

Mostly I’d get blank stares. “Don’t you mean fatback?” “No, I mean ratback.” “Well, I know what fatback is, but ratback — not so sure.”

We true Southerners know, of course, that “ratback” is a definite statement of one’s intention, having gone somewhere, to return at once and without delay.

If Arnold Schwarzenegger had played his Terminator character as a Southern gentleman, that cyborg wouldn’t have stomped around snarling “I’ll be back.”

Instead he’d have said, “Don’t go ‘way — I’ll be ratback.”

Thus concludes our April lesson in how to talk Southern. You’re welcome.

(This article is part of my series on words that are #worth1000pictures.)

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